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Faulty electronic devices increasingly linked to consumer injury and death

As technology advances and becomes ever more affordable, the existence of non-branded accessories have also increased in the consumer market and offer a cheaper alternative to official charging devices. Unfortunately, as more consumers turn to these products to save a little extra money, reports of faulty chargers have become more frequent, describing incidents that have caused electric shocks, injury or even death. Official responses to such incidents often result in a plea to use brand-approved products which are designed for a particular device to the upmost of safety standards. However, as a consumer of a product, we are all entitled to expect that the products we spend money on are safe to use, even if they are unbranded.

Defective products can cause serious injuries

In the UK, the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which was introduced to regulate sales of products and consumer safety procedures, states that we have a right to purchase goods that are of a good quality, safe to use and in working order. Even though the UK has a number of organisations dedicated to ensuring consumer protection - including the Competition and Markets Authority - defective products can occasionally make it onto the sales floor, with devastating results. In April this year, three generations of one family were killed in a house fire in Sheffield and in the same month a mother-of-two was electrocuted in Australia whilst talking on the phone, with both incidents reportedly caused by a faulty charger. Whilst these are two of the more extreme examples, there is a worrying number of reports of injuries being sustained or narrowly-missed from similar causes.

Most product liability cases involving faulty chargers appear to be as a result of purchasing cheaper, counterfeit items either in an emergency as the only available option to charge a device, or to subsidise the cost of the product itself. However, unbranded products are not the only cause of serious injury: officeworks has recalled an Insystem-branded USB charger following reports that the plastic casing could melt when connected to a power outlet due to high temperatures, while an incident in Texas last month (where a replacement battery overheated and caused a teenager’s smartphone to catch on fire) has led technology-giant Samsung to call for consumer education when it comes to technology and replacement parts.

Dangerous situations like these have prompted authorities to warn consumers of the potential dangers involved when purchasing knock-off style chargers for their products, and inform consumers about the importance of checking a product is safe before using it, regardless of where it was purchased. One of the most important things to consider when making a purchase is value over cost - whilst it may seem like spending £25 on one charger is too much, if it reduces the risk of injury then the cost is worth the extra money.

Knowing your consumer rights

We have written previously on the eligibility of product liability claims and how to produce the evidence required to make your case; you can claim for injuries as a result of numerous causes, including manufacturing or design defects, insufficient warnings or a failure to recall the product if a defect is discovered. The 1987 Consumer Protection Act holds manufacturers and suppliers liable for any injuries resulting from faulty or dangerous items and covers everything from electronic goods to furniture. The failure of producers, distributors and sellers to ensure their goods are safe could result in criminal action, including fines and imprisonment, as well as civil action involving the rewarding of compensation payouts. In the case of the woman electrocuted by her phone in Australia, the accessory stall where the faulty charger was purchased now faces fines totalling up to $87,500 AUS (roughly £48,000) and/or two years’ imprisonment for its role in the woman’s death.

If you or someone in your family has been injured and you wish to know more about product liability claims, then the solicitors at Fonseca Law are happy to help you! We have a highly skilled and experienced team of accident and injury lawyers available to advise you on your legal position, including whether or not you have a claim and what to expect from the claims procedure. Contact us today to arrange an initial consultation.