How To Tell If Your Charger Is Safe To Use In Australia

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

Punitive Measures

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.

For more info on safe chargers, head over to the NSW Department of Fair Trading



    So could we perhaps have a picture of chargers as opposed to cables please?

    The bigger problem is that the shitheels making these dangerous chargers also fake the certification logos by cloning them from a legitimate item.

    I've even been stung with faked compliance logos on items from places like JB hifi.

    Last edited 30/06/14 2:45 pm

      Exactly, thank you.

      You can half tell looking at the compliance symbols and any of the other writing - it will often not look quite right - if so, then it's probably dodgy.

      One common factor I've noticed on all 'good' charges, but not on 'bad' chargers (although I don't have many of the latter) is that the pins on the 'good' ones are all coated (presumably with an insulator) at the rear of the pins where they enter the charger.
      I'd be interested to hear from others if their 'dodgy' chargers have this too.

    This is why I bin "Australian plug" chargers from things imported from Hong Kong or similar and use existing chargers I already have.

      worst part is the ones coming out of Hong Kong are the ones faking certification most of the time.

      ^^ this , plus I dont charge anything including phones unless I am in the room with them.

    So why wouldn't have the safety switch in the powerboard of the house cut out the power in time and stopped the electrocution? All houses should have safety switches as far as I know.

      A circuit breaker will only stop an overcurrent for eg. If you drop water into your toaster and you have a dead short between Active and Neutral with next to 0 resistance causing a fault current of 100's of ampere... They're intended to protect wiring and the devices which are connected to the circuit themselves as opposed to people...

      The method of protection intended to protect people is the RCD... These measure the difference between the current which travels down the Active and the current which comes Back through the Neutral... If there's a difference of greater than 30ma, the assumption is there's a leak of current to earth, and the RCD will trip... Without RCD protection, say there's a 1amp leakage current to the metal outside of your fridge. Touch the fridge and you're earthed, you're dead.

      RCD Protection only became compulsory in the 90's... There's A LOT of places out there without it

      All new houses will have them, but old houses don't have to have them (at this stage).

    Here's another idea. Plug it in and touch it. If it doesn't kill you, it's safe.

    I have one that has the CE and RoHS on it.....

    Ive sworn a pact to only buy brand name electronics products because of the unreliability of the El cheapos. The worst ive had was a mislabelled AC adaptor actually cause my galaxy note 10.1 to discharge even when powered off which I found odd but theres no mistaking turning it off at 34% and leaving it connected overnight only to get the flat battery symbol in the morning. Boring hour to work

    I am no clearer now than I was before reading this article.

    With one exception - I now see that this isn't a federal thing so compliance is per state. Dumb.

      Compliance is via State authorities and because there is free trade between States if it is approved in one State it can be moved to another. Yes it is dumb but that is what we have.

      Road rules, building codes (even between councils), education and legal contracts are all different between States.

      Extremely Dumb.

      Needs to be fixed.

    No point to have any regulations if no one bothers to check and protect the consumer. Take NSW Department of Fair Trading to court for failing to protect these trademarks and allowing sale of uncertified products.

      You can't check everything all the time. It's an unfortunate matter of logistics. People can ship this kind of stuff in easily through eBay and without having a huge number of people constantly roving markets like this you'll never be able to make a significant dent in it.
      It's like we don't always have a police officer standing over our shoulder making sure we don't break the law: we have punishments for doing so.

      That's like taking the Police to court because there wasn't an officer on the particular corner you got mugged at when you got mugged. The department can't be everywhere at once (i guess they could be, but it would take a lot more tax revenue)

    Yeah its all pretty useless. Anyone anywhere can just dodge up a sticker and put in out there product that does comply.
    I work in the medical equipment field and even that gear doesn't comply to all the rules correctly.

      If you have medical equipment that does not comply to all the rules that you are aware of then this is alarming.
      Perhaps you should point it out to those who have the responsibility. Keep in mind your obligation under duty of care and record it.

    You can quote all the fines and penalties there are, and even quote a million dollar fine. But the reality is that there will be minimal enforcement and those sort of penalties given as there just aint the resources to Police the problem. Yes the ACCC will go out on a publicity stunt, but it's up to us all to take responsibility and be aware.

    or you could just plug your chargers into a circuit breaker protected power pack?

    any new place should also have circuit breakers for all your power.

    All very well except and iPad 12W charger that I KNOW is a knock off has the N tick and CE mark on it... What does that mean?

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