Uncertified USB chargers have already claimed the life of one Australian, and another has since survived a similar incident. It's important to know if your charger is safe for use before you plug it into the wall. Here's how you can tell.
Image: NSW Fair Trading
What's The Problem?
Every man and his dog at a market, computer fair or even big box retailer will sell you a third-party charger these days. With so many gadgets on the market, it's easy for third-parties to cash in with cheap accessories, and why shouldn't they?
The problem arises when these third-party accessory makers skip important regulatory processes, cut corners on manufacturing and end up shipping an inferior and potentially dangerous product.
Those dangers have been exposed for the world to see in the last week, with one woman killed after using a third-party USB cable she got from a third-party accessories kiosk in Sydney. The young woman was found dead wearing headphones and holding her laptop, with burns on her ears and chest that suggest an apparent electrocution.
A 14-year old boy survived a similar incident after a charger reportedly exploded while plugged into his wall. Said charger was purchased from Sydney's Paddy's Markets for just $10. It ended up burning the wall and shorting out power sockets all over his house as a result of the explosion.
Clearly, these uncertified chargers are an issue, so how can you protect yourself?
How Can I Be Safe?
Australian Consumer Law specifies that only certain charger certifications are valid for local sockets. Just because something is certified for use overseas, doesn't mean Aussies can plug it in without a care. Your charger or cable needs to have a specific certification.
Under the Electricity Consumer Safety Act, the only chargers you can safely use are laid out below:
Source: NSW Dept of Fair Trading
If you're a retailer reading this thinking that you might have an issue with the chargers you're selling, it's time to shape up.
The penalties for selling, importing, exchanging or hiring out unmarked and untested chargers in Australia is $82,500 in fines for an individual, and the possibility of up to two years in prison.
For corporations, it's far more serious. You're looking at up to an $825,000 fine and potential jail time.