Rogue Christmas Lights May Be Under (and on) Your Tree This Year

Rogue Christmas Lights May Be Under (and on) Your Tree This Year
Photo by Nick Fewings / Unsplash

A British consumer protection group says that Christmas lights bought from online marketplaces are being sold illegally and in some cases putting users at risk of electric shocks or fires.

The consumer group called Which? tested Christmas tree lights at the cheaper end of the price range bought from online marketplaces AliExpress, Amazon, eBay and Wish, and found that 10 of the 12 sets of lights bought failed to meet the requirements of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) regulations and could not legally be sold in the UK, the group said in a news release.

“Cheap Christmas lights could be tempting for many of us trying to save money amid the cost of living crisis – but our latest research shows consumers could be putting themselves in danger due to online marketplaces failing to take safety seriously,” said Sue Davies, Which? Head of Consumer Protection Policy.

The problem is not confined to the UK. In the U.S., holiday lights are regularly blamed for falls, electrocution and fires. An average of 770 fires are caused by Christmas lights every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. 

CNET recently compiled a list of 16 safety tips to help ensure your holiday decorations are safe.

Poor build quality in some lights

One set of lights bought from a seller on the UK site Wish was so badly made that it posed both an electric shock risk to anyone using it and was also a fire hazard, Which? said. The Fairy LED string lights had problems with the cable, the control box and the plug.

The build quality was so poor that the white control box could easily be pulled apart by a child, exposing accessible live parts. Wires could be pulled out by hand with little force.

The product was also marked as being waterproof, but Which? found no evidence of this when it took it to pieces and examined the components.

Electric shock hazard

Another set of lights bought from a seller on AliExpress were so poorly manufactured that they could give anyone using them an electric shock.

Which? found poor-quality soldering and a transformer that did not meet the minimum requirements for creepage and clearance distances, which is the space between the live and neutral sections of the circuit board. This means the lights present an electric shock hazard for users.

The pins on the plug were too short and there were numerous problems with the packaging, markings and documents provided. Finally, during Which?’s electrical strength test, the lights blew. These lights are illegal to sell in the UK and dangerous.

Ten of the 12 sets of Christmas lights Which? tested – including two from Amazon and two from eBay – failed compliance checks and cannot be sold legally in the UK. They failed to come with instructions or were missing key markings covering things like how to dispose of the lights and what their electrical ratings are.

Only two sets of lights, one bought from Amazon and one from eBay, passed all of Which?’s tests and are legal to be sold and safe to use.

AliExpress, Amazon, eBay and Wish all said that they had removed the products found to be illegal for sale from their platforms.