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New test shows almost all counterfeit Apple chargers are unsafe

Investigators find 99% of fake charges can seriously shock you.

 

Some buyers complain that counterfeit Apple chargers break quickly.

“I know trauma from the time I bought a fake Apple charger on Amazon for $20 and then wondered why it broke in two weeks,” said one customer on Twitter.

But a new test shows that these phone and device chargers can also hurt you.

“Ninety-nine percent of counterfeit Apple chargers bought online fail a basic safety test,” said Britain’s Chartered Trading Standards Institute, which commissioned the investigation.

 

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A Twitter user complains about a counterfeit Apple charger that broke quickly.

 

The test

Investigators from UL bought 400 counterfeit Apple chargers online, from suppliers in the U.S., Canada, China, Australia, Thailand, Colombia, among other countries.

They put the adapters through multiple tests, including an electrical strength test to see if the devices could protect you from being shocked.

Almost all—397 out of 400—flunked the test, putting you at risk, the Institute said.

“Criminals across the globe are using online platforms to lure you in with cheap deals for fake items, many of which are dangerous and have been known to overheat and cause house fires,” said Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards in the UK in the Institute’s news release.

 

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An Amazon customer writes in a review that the newly purchased charger caught fire.

 

How can you tell?

You can check your charger to see if it is a dangerous counterfeit, the Institute said. See below for more details.

First, check the plug pins to see if they fit into the socket properly.

Plug in your charger, but don’t turn it on or connect it to your device, the Institute said. If they don’t plug in easily, they could overheat and damage to the socket and the charger.

Second, check the markings. 

Look for the manufacturer’s brand name or logo, model and batch number. Check for spelling errors in the brand name. 

Check that the output voltage and current ratings listed on the charger and your Apple device are the same.

Look for instructions that came with the charger.

The user instructions should tell you about conditions and limitations of use, how to use it safely and how to get rid of it when you are done with it.

Prior complaints

In October, Apple sued a company selling what it called counterfeit Apple products on Amazon.

Apple said Mobile Star’s chargers could be dangerous, according to Patently Apple.

“Counterfeit power products, such as those supplied by Mobile Star, pose an immediate threat to consumer safety because, unlike genuine Apple products, they are not subjected to industry-standard consumer safety testing and are poorly constructed with inferior or missing components, flawed design, and inadequate electrical insulation,” the lawsuit said.

“These counterfeits have the potential to overheat, catch fire, and deliver a deadly electric shock to consumers while in normal use,” Apple said.

The documents said UL had tested 12 counterfeit Apple power adapters that “were so poorly designed and constructed that they posed a risk of lethal electrocution to the user.”

 

 

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The Amazon review of a customer who says his or her charger caught fire shows an image of the burn marks on the charger.

 

Stay safe

Consumer experts say you should buy chargers that are licensed to go with your device.

That could mean staying away from some devices on Amazon.

The Apple lawsuit said it found that Amazon was directly selling fake Apple chargers as “genuine,” most of them from Mobile Star.

“Despite Apple’s efforts, fake Apple products continue to flood Amazon.com,” the suit said.

Very low prices are a telltale sign of a possible counterfeit—and customer disappointment.

“My charger is here and it is a 100% fake Apple charger,” wrote an unhappy buyer on Twitter.

 

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A Twitter user learns the “Apple” charger he ordered is counterfeit.

 

More help

Here are more details on how to check your charger from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute:

—Plug pins

Check that there is at least 9.5 mm between the edge of the pins and the edge of the charger (9.5 mm is about the width of a ballpoint pen). If the distance between the edge of the pins and the edge of the charger is less than 9.5 mm, there is a risk of electric shock when plugging in and unplugging the charger from a socket.

Plug the charger into a socket but don’t switch it on or connect it to your appliance.

Does it plug in easily? If the charger does not easily plug into a socket, the pins may be the wrong size or length, or the distance between the pins may be wrong. If pins do not fit properly into the socket, overheating, arcing and mechanical damage can occur to both the socket and the charger, which can be dangerous.

—Markings

Look for a manufacturer’s brand name or logo, model and batch number. Check for a CE mark.

Check that the output voltage and current ratings marked on the charger and your electrical device are the same.

Do not rely on a CE mark alone as a guarantee of safety – it’s simply a declaration by the manufacturer that the product meets all the safety requirements of European law, but they can be easily forged.

—Warnings and instructions

Adequate warnings and instructions must be provided. As a minimum, user instructions should provide information on conditions and limitations of use, how to operate the charger safely, basic electrical safety guidance and details of how to safely dispose of the charger when it is no longer required.

—Other safeguards

—Only using a genuine charger made and licensed for use with your product.

—Don’t over charge your product. Once it is charged, disconnect it and turn the charger off.

—Never cover your device while its being charged. Don’t put it under a pillow at night or in contact with bedding.

—Never use a damaged charger with a cracked case or frayed cable or one that is not working properly.

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