The latest instalment in Electrical Safety First's (ESF) ongoing campaign to stamp out e-bike fires is in, with the safety charity expressing serious concerns about the enforcement of Wish.com's ban on the sale of e-bike chargers and conversion kits.
ESF has been campaigning for a legally enforceable ban on 'universal' (often very cheap) e-bike and e-scooter chargers as well the introduction of safety standards for e-bike conversion kits. This mix has clearly put the two on a collision course.
ESF says it has "serious concerns" about the ban that Wish.com claims it has enacted.
A spokesperson said: "Responding to a previous investigation conducted last year by the charity into unsafe e-bike chargers sold on its platform, Wish.com recently told the BBC’s consumer flagship show, Rip Off Britain, that: 'Given the safety risks surrounding e-bike chargers, we took the decision to block the sale of e-bike chargers on our UK platform in May 2023.'"
When approached for clarification by ESF, the online marketplace giant told the charity it has since extended the ban to all e-bike and e-scooter chargers as well as motor and conversion kits.
Whilst ESF praises Wish for its apparent willingness to remove offending products from its site, it is less convinced by the action taken - ESF has found chargers and conversion kits still for sale on its marketplace.
In response, Wish told the charity these examples, “appear to have circumvented our filters due to incorrect tagging from our merchants.”
Is there a helpful MP out there?
ESF is actively lobbying the current government in the clear belief that the legal buck tops with them.
“The fact that chargers were still for sale reinforces the need for urgent changes to the law, strict enforcement and penalties. Voluntary action, whilst welcome, will not eliminate the need for legal change that must be introduced by Government,” ESF chief executive Lesley Rudd commented.
To that end, ESF has announced a Bill to tackle the issue and is seeking an MP to adopt it in Parliament during this month’s Westminster Bill Ballot.
If adopted by an MP, the Bill would introduce third-party safety certification for all e-bikes, e-scooters and their batteries before they come onto the market, and would temporarily ban the sale of ‘universal chargers’ whilst protocols are introduced to reduce the risk of the wrong voltage being supplied to a battery.
The Bill would also introduce markings on batteries to deter them from being disposed of in general waste, which is another major cause of fires.
Other online discounters vs safe chargers and kits
Despite its concerns, ESF does have some warm words for Wish.com, acknowledging, "Wish.com is the first online marketplace to take such proactive measures to attempt to prevent the sale of dangerous e-bike and e-scooter chargers."
Wish aren't of course the only online discounters in ESF's sights. An investigation by the charity in September 2022 identified nearly 60 listings of potentially dangerous and substandard e-bike and e-scooter chargers across Wish.com, Amazon Marketplace, eBay and AliExpress and similar problems continued into 2023.
The problem of course is not any inherent danger with e-bike chargers or conversion kits - it's estimated just 0.011% of bikes and scooters on the market set on fire last year. Rather it appears to be a product of the huge, barely-policed online marketplaces where substandard products can all too easily be listed, and of the authorities' apparent lack of will or ability to deal with it.