Cheap LEDs: buyer beware

As the market for LED lighting continues to grow, suppliers are competing to cash in. And while competition is forcing prices down for consumers, the appearance of dodgy and dangerous products on the market means that those who go for cheap LEDs risk paying a much greater price.

LED lamps are promoted as long-term money-savers, using a fraction of the electricity of conventional bulbs, and lasting for years. But faulty and hazardous products have sullied LEDs reputation, and are triggering a reaction from authorities around the world.

In a case reported on the BBC’s Fake Britain, a shipment of 1,000 LED lamps, imported from China, was identified at the Port of Felixstowe on the east coast of England. A number of samples were found to have insufficient insulation and exposed live elements. They were potentially lethal.

In a demonstration of the danger posed, the Fake Britain team tested some of the lamps were tested in a laboratory, alongside a branded lamp. The unbranded domestic lamp recorded 179V and 91mA in a touch test – multiple times higher than the maximum 60V and 2mA permitted in European safety standards. A higher-powered lamp for commercial use recorded 203V and 98mA, making it a potentially lethal threat. The branded LED recorded no voltage or current output when touched, as it should be.

Causing further concern for alarm, the products in the Felixstowe consignment all carried the CE mark, which is supposed to show compliance with all applicable EU directives, indicating that the products are OK to sell in Europe. But clearly these products were not.

‘The shipment was identified through controls set up by the single point of contact for border controls,’ explains Carol Garrett, principal officer at Suffolk Trading Standards, who oversaw the Felixstowe border control interception. ‘We had identified, earlier in 2014, that a number of LED products intercepted at UK border points were failing product safety testing. We carried out some targeted controls on LED products during July to November 2014, as a result of the work we did across various UK border points.’

A number of alerts had been recorded through the EU’s rapid alert system for dangerous products, which gives the authorities in each member state a way to share information on products that pose a risk.

The initiative yielded strong results, with 64 per cent of the LED lamps tested and assessed found to be unsafe. The threat didn’t stop at lamps. ‘As the project was delivered, high levels of non-compliance were also identified in other LED products,’ Garrett continues: ‘Seventy-six per cent of LED lighting products tested and assessed were found to be unsafe or non-compliant.’

The Felixstowe consignment had been imported by a London-based supplier. ‘We believe the products were destined for sale via the internet,’ says Garrett. Not any more: they were destroyed at the border. But many more continue to exchange hands.

More reputable lighting manufacturers say that buyers must beware. Paul Davidson, technical and project manager at LED lighting specialist Aurora, says buyers should avoid LEDs in white boxes in favour of branded products. ‘Lighting designers know to steer clear of specifying unbranded LEDs in white boxes, which are an indication that their origin could be suspect or could be fake and, or, unsafe. By specifying branded products from a recognised manufacturer, the safety job’s done for you because each lamp has been tested before it leaves the factory.’





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Comments 9

this industry is still under competition, lots of factories are surviving on the edge and will broke down within a few years. You could choose to buy from famous led lighting companies like Osram, Lumileds,etc, which could ensure the safety. But those companies is not perfectly safe. I have heard too many recall events of those companies too. Dont be fooled- Both are legitimate marks in their own right, but one of them isn't like the other.

1.) CE certificates & marked is selling in whole China territory which everybody knew that, if you can pay for that lab; CE approval price are starting at RMB 5,000 ~ which depends on how much different gap between your commodities to CE standard requested. 2.) Any kinds of certificate can buy in China; for example, if you pay RMB 200,000 that you can buy the certificate of the Famous Brand from government directly; 3.) Therefore, if you want to buy Toys, not Products which you can easy to buy from China.

Agree with all the sentiments ( except "you get what you pay for" some folk pay fortunes for rubbish) Point to ponder:- Has anyone tried exporting a luminaire to China? it is called the CCC [ China Compulsory Certification ] and YOU have to pay for the inspectors flights and hotels to inspect your factory, they then decide if they think your product is suitable or that they have visited the "real" factory, and months & months later they issue a certificate for the ONE PRODUCT, not your factory or your range - Change the spec and you have to do it all again ! Oh and the cost to YOU the exporter? £10,000 would be cheap !! - If you don't believe me try :- Why in the name of ??? don't we wake up and smell the imbalance and recognise we are just sitting ducks? Here's a thought:- IF the UK Gov set up an inspection service to "certify" a factory in China, we could all buy with confidence. If that factory starts supply "fake" or iffy goods from their mates factory round the corner then they lose their license and lose a massive export customer - THE UK - That might make them sit up and self police. HAS to be better than this non system of laughable CE ticketing we have. Come on SOMEONE wake up somewhere.

Yes it is a mess. I opened up 3 different Chinese made floodlights which had an earth cable and not one had it connected inside. There was no double insulaion mark so this was illegal. They were still CE marked. The voltage range was not compliant with EU specs. It is very obvious that someone will eventually be killed by Chinese products and that this makes UK built electronics and truly compliant devices in general difficult if not impossible to compete. Something needs to be done and very soon to stop this influx of dangerous garbage which is affecting the competitivenes of our country

Agree with the sentiment that the industry is a mess with falsely governed and falsely advertised products. I have been championing the cause for a new British Standard that all imports must comply with for some time. What is factual equivalents neds to be made clearer along with correct wiring codes, construction and also a documented proof of components essential. Many distributors claim one component use but at the price point could not achieve, or certifications that they do not have. For the ones who are honestly producing product ensuring correct component usage and correct certifications it becomes harder to sell product. The system must fit with manufacturers to ensure the consumer safety and most importantly set Britain once again as a bench mark for product purchase due to regulation.

Virtually every LED Spotlight and bulb on sale in the UK is not 'as described' as, almost without exception, none of them are genuine halogen or incandescent replacements. When is the industry going to start giving accurate information to consumers? CRI of 80 might be suitable for some people and applications but it is factually incorrect to advertise them as direct replacements for halogens and incandescent lamps. The industry is a mess and there are very few people telling the truth. Most consumers are ending up with poor quality products that have been sold to them on the basis of misleading advertising.

You get what you pay for.

A number of companies can produce CE complied products. Besides a lot of them offer non-CE and CE under different prices in first-time quotation. There are different laboratories in China providing CE, UL and other testing. Those importers should be claimed who want to get easy money without performing any action on the issue. They even couldn't claim suppliers because they haven't provide specification before placing order. The only requerement was to print CE on the color box

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