Cheaper chargers can come at an ultimate cost

A young woman’s death in my native Australia has put the spotlight on cheap USB chargers and other electrical devices.

Sheryl Anne Aldeguer, 28 was found dead in her home in April, electrocuted by a faulty USB phone charger. Aldeguer was found with burns to her ears and chest from headphones and a laptop respectively. She was electrocuted after the charger sent a high voltage pulse through to her laptop and the headphones she was wearing. The USB phone charger is believed to have cost AUS$4.95 (2.73 British Pounds) and have been purchased at a mobile phone accessory kiosk in Campsie, NSW (New South Wales).

Fair Trading NSW seized non-compliant and faulty USB chargers and other electrical devices from this mobile phone accessory kiosk and shut it down. The operators of this kiosk could face either fines of over AUS$87,000 (48,142 British Pounds) or two years imprisonment. Corporations who are found to be selling these products could also be facing fines of ten times that amount.

Fair Trading NSW is warning consumers only to purchase USB chargers and other electrical devices that have Fair Trading approval marks, which prove their quality and safety. Using unapproved and faulty USB chargers and other electrical devices, can also result in electrical damage and/or fires.

So what is the lesson to take out of this tragedy and who is to blame?

First and foremost the person who is NOT to blame is Aldeguer or any consumer in general. When consumers like Aldeguer, as well as you and me purchase a product, whether it is from a store that is part of a huge corporation, or a cheaper store or a kiosk, we expect it to be decent and functioning. More importantly we all also have a fair expectation that any product we purchase meets legal and fair trading standards, no matter what country we live and shop in. Is it really the job of consumers to make sure that these products are meeting these standards? No, it should be the job of the legal and government entities who are responsible for fair trading and the traders themselves. However as consumers we should also learn from these unfortunate situations and keep our eyes and ears open when we take our purchases home and use them.

Aldeguer’s death is currently being investigated and a report is being prepared for the coroner.

This article was originally published on Tech Reviewer on 29 June 2014 and can be found here.