Shocking warning about power adaptors

With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard

Do you buy electrical products online? You may be shocked to hear that overseas plug converters supplied with appliances to make them usable in Australia could harm or kill you!

There have been two local cases recently where consumers reported receiving electric shocks from power adaptors that came with appliances they’d purchased from websites.

Consumer Protection is now working with EnergySafety to warn the WA community about unsafe adaptors (overseas plug converters) that may come with electrical products bought via the internet but don’t meet Australian Standards (AS/NZS 3122). The sellers supply these adapters to overcome the problem of the appliance being fitted with a plug not suitable for use in Australia.

One that caused recent electric shocks is a travel adaptor with multiple pin options. When the Australian pins are plugged into a power board, two exposed pins designed for the United Kingdom are able to be touched – those pins are live at 240 Volts; enough voltage to cause serious injury or death. The risk exists when the pins are in the unlocked position and fully protruding but also when the user has remembered to lock them because even in the recessed position the ends of the pins can still be touched.

If you receive, or already have, an adaptor supplied with electrical goods purchased online or bought while overseas, be suspicious about its electrical safety. Have it checked by an electrician before use.

Better still, buy an adapter from a reputable local retailer because adaptors sold here must be approved for use in Australia – they will be marked with an Australian approval number and bear the Regulatory Compliance Mark (a triangle with a circled tick inside it), indicating they comply with our Standards. It is an offence to sell unapproved electrical equipment in WA with a maximum penalty of $50,000 for an individual or $250,000 for a corporation.

Alternatively, if you have an appliance with a foreign plug, ask an electrician to replace the plug with an Australian one.

Anyone in possession of unapproved adaptors from overseas should destroy and dispose of them immediately. If you are going overseas you can buy safe travel adaptors in Australia to suit the electricity systems of most countries before you depart.

Consumer tips:

  • Only buy electrical products with the Regulatory Compliance Mark and Australian safety approval number.
  • Buy from recognised Australian stores and not from overseas suppliers to ensure electrical products are safe.
  • Before purchasing adaptors or chargers, check the plug pins are of an Australian configuration, have been approved for use in Australia and are insulated for at least 50% of the pin length. 
  • Anyone in possession of unapproved adaptors or chargers from overseas should destroy and dispose of them immediately. Do not use them. 
  • Unsafe adaptors should not be able to be purchased locally but if you have one you bought in Australia it should be reported and if you notice any unapproved chargers for sale by a local supplier, please also call EnergySafety: 6251 1900 or Consumer Protection: 1300 30 40 54.

You can see our new warning videos about power adaptors on the Consumer Protection Facebook page and YouTube channel

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard, by CP Media
David Hillyard, Acting Commissioner, by CP Media


Consumer Protection
Media release
01 Sep 2017

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