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back to article Dangerous mobe chargers flood UK

Cheap replacement chargers are flooding into UK shops, undercutting legitimate products while putting punters in danger from badly-made connections and low specifications. The chargers, some of which bear a forged CE mark, are sold on the cheap and branded as "Travel Chargers". Trading Standards has issued a specific warning …

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Anonymous Coward

<no title>

Interesting. £6 to cover the materials and labour to create a charger; another £9 to check and pass it safe. Seems counter intuative to me.

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Late?

Hasn't this been happening for several years? I thought this was really old news.

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Solution

Can someone please let me in on the secret why every single phone, battery charger, home phone base unit, games console, etc in my house has to have a different charge connector? Is it beyond the wit of man to have, say, a standard 5v charger connector and a standard 12v connector? Then, there'd be little market for this low-grade junk. Aaaargh! It makes my blood boil.

O

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Wiimote charges

I've read about some pretty dodgy Wiimote chargers. I made sure to get one that charges via USB. Much safer and doesn't use up one of your precious wall sockets.

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It all depends

Well, if I pay £40-50 for cheap basic mobile phone, I'd be rather hesitant to pay another £20 for a second charger. Last year, while travelling in Russia, I picked up a Chinese-made charger compatible with my Nokia for just under £4. Yes, it's cheaply made and doesn't have the CE mark - but it has served me well for over a year now. The reality is that in most cases everything works perfectly - it's just when one catches fire or explodes that we hear about it. But this happens to 1 out of 100,000 or even less often.

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How long..

Mini USB is only 500mA.

Some devices would take 8hr to 14hrs. More than 7 is too long.

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Surely not 'forged' e-mark?

The *mark* is fine; the question is whether the equipment so marked meets the relevant standards. 'Undeserved' e-mark, perhaps?

Frankly, I hate that the e mark is used as a catchall and doesn't specify which standard is being approved. For example, the dodgy charger could have a perfectly valid e mark, meeting the standard for teddy bears.

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Lex
Stop

Nope!

Standardise chargers, otherwise significantly reduce the costs of the legit ones otherwise this problem will not go away. Johnnie anybody will not pay three times more for what (effectively looks like) the same device and even if informed of the difference will still be unlikely to pay for the more expensive one. Particuarly with the credit crunch on.

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@ Anon

Not quite - £6 to build an exploding charger, £7 to build a safe one, and another £8 (going towards the CEO's bonus) for putting a "name you can trust" on the box.

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All too familiar...

Im afraid this problem is indeed quite common. Working in a mobile phone retailer we often see customers moaning over the price of chargers, but despite making it clear that the reason for the price is for safety and reliability we still see a fair amount of people prefering to pop down to the market to pick up cheap chargers.

The most amusing result is when we get customers in a few days later complaining that their phones no longer charge, mainly due to the charger either simply packing in, or in a recent case actually popped the charging module on their phone so spectacularly that their phone had to be written off.

So if you wanna buy cheap, expect shoddy quality. Oh and dont come in whining at the sales consultant because of your own cheapness :)

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Dead Vulture

6 glorious months...

'Hopefully the adoption of mini-USB as a charging standard...'

For six happy months, I could charge my GPS, digital camera, mobile phone and mp3 player, and deal with data on each device, all from one cable, attached to the laptop. Perfect.

Now I have a new phone and a new camera, which the designers in their infinite wisdom have decided to move onto custom connectors, the (Motorola V8) phone a micro-usb, and the camera (Olympus E510) some bizarre usb/video lead... Back to holidaying with a rucksack full of cables and chargers again.

Not impressed.

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@ Onionman

No secret, just common sense. We live in a society where companies exist solely to get our money from us in any way possible. By making the connectors proprietary they ensure you go them for a replacement, not someone else. The fact that this is a vast waste of resources and an extreme annoyance is our problem, not theirs; therefore they don't give a flying fuck.

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@Onionman

Because it would cut off a major source of revenue.

Take the mobe market for example, manufacturers and retailers make more money out of accessories such as chargers than they do on the phones these days.

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Why do we need cheap-o chargers?

Because If I go into a phone shop and ask for the official charger, they're going to try and charge me £50. I did this the other day, and the guy in the shop VERY kindly told me to nip round the corner, and buy one from the Chinky fellow; ended up costing me just under a tenner.

Industry: If you don't want cheap, counterfeit, low quality goods flooding the market, then FOR GOD'S SAKE lower your prices, because currently your markup is TOTALLY unreasonable.

Inflation is about to become a REAL problem again and unless we sort out the cost of living in this country, things are really going to fuck up.

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Linux

@Mage

If it is charged through USB just plug it in when you go to bed and then when you wake up you have it charged.

If you drive buy a car charger, then you can charge while stuck in traffic cause some idiot in front of you would like to look at the accident on the otherside of the motorway.

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Paris Hilton

@Neil Barnes

Just to clear things up, the e-mark is totally different to the CE mark. As for being a catch all, most responsible manufacturers include a declaration of conformity (DoC) that states which EU Directives and harmonised standards the CE mark is applicable to.

JDT

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Joke

@Neil Barnes

There's a standard for Teddy Bears?

I can picture it now: "I'm sorry, Mr Toymaker, but your bear just doesn't meet our new 'cuddly-udllyness' requirements. EU regs and all that. I threatened the bloke who set these new regs with a pair of achers if he didn't leave, but he just said 'non, monsieur; mantinent, il s'appelle Hecatares'"

Apols for awful french.

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To Be Expected

This, frankly, was only to be expected.

Back in the old days, nearly everything used a 5.0x2.1 plug, centre negative and was happy with up to 300mA.

Nowadays, it seems that every manufacturer, if not every individual appliance model, has a different charging connector; and some of them seem to be unnecessarily complicated by design. Voltage requirements also seem to vary widely. There doesn't seem to be any good reason for this -- except, possibly, to make it difficult to replace a failed charger, thereby necessitating replacement of the whole appliance.

It's about time we had a standard charging connector and supply voltage mandated by law. Then manufacturers could pay some mind to building decent quality products in the first place, as opposed to making it difficult for third-parties to provide support.

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Safety?

If safety were the primary concern, the equipment manufacturers would sell replacements at cost. No undercutting, no sale.

Or, just make sure everything you buy can be charged by a PowerMonkey.

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Of course this will happen

Recently my laptop charger for my Thinkpad stopped working, or rather the cable on it snapped off. Buying a branded and boxed but second-hand one on Ebay would cost me £24.99 including postage. Buying a new one from the manufacturer would cost £60.00 and buying a cheap Chinese knock off, also on Ebay, would cost £10.00.

It's clear the manufacturers are massively overcharging, how can a charger possibly cost £60.00? That is the basic root of the problem in having accessories that bare no resemblance to the actual cost of them. Another example is why mobile phone batteries cost so much - it's actually possible to get a second battery that costs more than the phone!

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Boffin

@ Neil Barnes

The details of which standards are adhered to *should* be on the enclosed 'Declaration of Conformity', usually one of the last pages in the manual. This document however seems to rarely be included...

'Fake' or undeserved CE marking is indeed very old news and has been known to the electronics 'community' for a very long time. One insider told me before that at least 2/3 of products available on sale don't meet the necessary standards, especially for 'EMC' (interference). The problem is that full enforcement (i.e testing) is expensive to carry out and as such is rarely done.

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Unhappy

CE Marks

Let us not forget that most CE marks are applied quite legitimately by the manufacturer, after their own tests. There are quite specific tests and standards for all the instances in which a CE mark is appropriate.

That is how it came to mean "China Exempt".

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@Anonymous Coward

Surely the whole point here is that the £6 materials/labour/packaging ISN'T up to the job?

Putting the CE mark on a charger doesn't suddenly fix the mechanical defects in it.

I've recently thrown out a nokia charger (bought from a 'reputable' store) on which the external sheathe has broken next to the plug. This (if it hadn't been noticed) very easily could have worn further and shorted.

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Do yourself a favour...

and take a screwdriver to your CE marked stuff and observe for yourself the "quality engineering" inside.; but of course you can't open them without breaking the case can you? Makes you drink... doesn't it....?

This applies especially to the 12v ciggy lighter chargers. Neil hits the nail on the head.

The stuff you can pick up from a hawker is not really any lower quality than the stuff that comes with your mobile.

@Onionman: Abso-@#$%-lutely.

@Mage: How many mobile devices do you want to push half an amp charging current into? Aside from laptops, which due to their high energy consumption warrant their own charger/mains supply, I can't think of any pocket device that would require such a high current. You could always just use two USB ports off your USB hub (requiring its own proprietary CE marked mains supply, of course) thereby giving you 1A of charging current; 5W at USB voltages.

Hmmm toasty warm singing campfire songs while your mobile charges. Kumbaya O2....

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Dead Vulture

"Buy cheap kit and pay the price"

use that word (the M one) and pay the price, Bill!!

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Cheap-o-chargers

I used to buy phone chargers from the internet, only £3 each and so i thought i would leave one at work, one in the bedroom, and a spare in my bag! Within a few months, two of them had "blown" up with one hell of a pop!. After that i shall always buy legitimate ones!

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Some manufacturers deliberatly force incompatable chargers

I worked in the mobile industry and Motorola were well known for deliberatly introducing unique connectors. Their policy was to force all developers to 'licence' through them and did it with incompatable interfaces. Their accessories were stupidly expensive, but they still seemed to think they could control the sale of accessories by making them different. They even once made their phones with USB connectors/chargers, and then claimed that anyone using their phone using with any other charger (even those meeting the USB standard) would blow up the battery.

By contrast Nokia made all of their connectors standard so anyone could sell third party chargers and earpieces.

Guess which phone had the most problems with cheap imported chargers? The phone which had everyone making chargers at reasonable price .......or the phone whose only official source was wildly expensive?

"Its the profit margin Stupid".

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Mobe?

Excuse me, but isn't "mobe" a banned word on this website?

If not, it should be....

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Coat

Inside a fake Dell adapter

http://www.electricstuff.co.uk/acadapter.html

The rest of this guy's site is pretty cool too if you're an electronics geek like me...

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Mobe?

How

many

times

?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/26/mobe_mobe_mobe/

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Of course, the legitimate product is a rip off

It's easy to prove so, when you can walk into Maplins and for under 20 quid get a certified regulated multi voltage power supply which supplies far more amperage than the shitty piece of plastic with poor connectors and thin wires you receive from official mobile manufacturers..

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@Onionman - Standardised charging plugs

A different charging plug for each voltage....... that is such a good idea! Why the hell don't we have that already?

Not only does it mean that you don't have to own 15 different wallplugs for the devices in your house, but you dont have to worry about frying devices by plugging in a charger with the right plug but the wrong voltage (Urgh, I used to have 2 usb hubs, one had a 5v power supply and the other had a 12v power supply (with internal 5v regulation) and I managed to plug them in the wrong way round once and kill a few usb devices)

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@Mage

500mA is the specification for the maximum current you can draw from a USB port on a PC. It's not the electrical specification for the connector.

I have a multitude of devices which I charge with Mini USB connectors, and I have a cigarette lighter adapter in the car which has a PC style USB connector on the top. This can provide a whole amp of current, and none of my devices, or plugs have yet melted.

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Flame

Mobile Phone Shops.

Are a bloody rip off.

1Gb Micro SD Ram (online stores only, not shop front):

Scan.co.uk - £3.55

T-Mobile - £24.99

Orange - £7.97

Vodafone - £20.00

O2 - Fail (404, file not found)

Yeh, come buy from us, we like to charge you more than five times the going rate, and they call the people importing the cheap chargers crooks?

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Dead Vulture

@Sarah

okay, okay. a fair point. even though there is precident, if the word gets used,

i

will

call

shenanigans

on those using it. i care not who it may be. to quote Sir Alec:

"who is more fool; the fool, or the fool that follows him?"

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@Antony Riley

Mobile phone shops aren't as much of a rip off as you might think actually. Now considering I actually work in one and know the amount of margin we make off them. Manufacturer chargers cost between £20 - £25, now you may think that is prohibatively expensive but when you consider that I regularly book handsets in for repair due to damaged charger ports due to cheap knock-offs it makes sense just to buy legitimately. Also as i said in a previous comment, these chargers aren't very good at maintaining a constant voltage or current which results in your snazzy mobile phone going up in smoke or exploding your battery. Now consider the repair cost for such an incident ranges from £45 to £150 dependant on the device, forking out £25 doesn't seem too bad after all.

I personally don't care what people do, however I do take particular satisfaction in having customers return with a cooked handset after preaching days earlier that they can get it much cheaper around the corner in the market. I guess it all depends on how much you value your belongings and weather you can justify paying a little over the odds for safety, reliability and oh I forgot A WARRANTY on the charger.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: @Sarah

It's site policy, fool. If only because it continues to wind you up with such beautiful efficiency and predictability.

MOBE.

Meheh.

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mini usb, tis the future

Its a sensation.

One day all connectors will be made that way.

I vote that all devices such as mobiles, PDAs MP3 players should be mini USB and charge at the USB voltage, you could then charge off your PC or have one charger that you plug in and just swap your devices.

I mean they dont have specilist petrol nozzles as the filling station for each type of car now do they?

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@Inside a fake Dell adapter

http://www.electricstuff.co.uk/electrofun.html

Classic thanks for turning me onto this site :P

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Anonymous Coward

Should have seen the returns at old job

I used to work for a budget 3rd party battery importer, that used to knowingly import faked CE marked batteries and chargers

about 4 times a week we would receved a returned charger which had either melted, shorted or failed in a spectacular fashion. common faults i found to include, dry joints, solder shorts, missing heatsinks, disconnected grounds etc.

throughly shoddy construction through out, how a customers house didnt burn down i dont know

we had litterally thousands units which had to be scrapped as they were not designed for 240v ac use despite what the manuf had stamped onto the chargers, never mind the profits that were made from the sales of them. (we had worse products like a warehouse full of light fittings that would explode if wired in, or the 4 way adaptors that would explode without warning and was possible to touch live contacts)

so my advice is:

If you are going to leave it plugged in for any amount of time unattended stump up the extra £5 and buy a charger from a high street chain.

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Flame

well,

this is probably the best possible illustration of "getting burned on a purchase".

The problem of overpriced proprietary adaptors has already been covered. Nevertheless, some people (most likely not much represented here) are unaware that producing a quality charger (as in safe and reliable) costs money—even in China. There are generic wall-warts (made in Germany) in my house happily chugging away since the 1980s in constant operation and some more sporadically used Apple and Sony branded ones (made in China and Japan) that operate faultlessly since the early 90s. I don't expect any of them to fail in the foreseeable future, yet if they should I would take care to get a decent replacement which will likely cost round about €25/£20. Said replacement will work well and not burn down my house or fry the device hooked up to it. It is peace of mind you can buy and that actually pays off. That all those devices are "vintage" and happy with an easily obtained standard plug comes as an added bonus *snicker*

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Coat

Re @Sarah re @mobe

Really folks, anyone over the age of 40 knows that a mobe is a yellow 50cc step through "motorcycle" with pedals & made in France, honestly the youth of today.

Mines the tweed one with leather cuffs & elbows

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Happy

@Re: @ Re: @ Sarah

nah, it doesn't wind me up as bad as some folk on here. it just sounds a bit 'slightly dodgy pub bloke', really.

heh, 'site policy'. now, _that_ is funny.

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Cheap, non-branded stuff

I ended up with what is probably the worst battery operated drill known to man. It came from some random place; not sure who had it, but it was one of these 'kit' things, with an 18v cordless drill, some bits, some little drivers for philips, flat, torx screws, etc...

Well, the drill bits are all pre-bent - you put them in and they go, wobble wobble back and forth. And one of the screw driver bits actually *shattered* when I was driving a drywall screw into a piece of 1/4" plywood (Or is that "eight-by-four" for you guys?). This was remarkable in that the weakness of the driver bit was greater than the weakness of the motor the drill uses.

Then there's the charger, natch. It looks like a normal charger for an 18v cordless drill - sits on the desk, LED, put the battery in upside down. But it's LIGHT. It's obvious that there's nothing inside bit two wires going straight to the battery terminals. And there's a sticker on the thing warning not to keep the battery in for more than four hours. Hmmm...

The drill itself is the best part, though. It's incredibly light - take the battery out and it's barely there. It's made of this awful plastic, brittle and hard, like it's some kind of foam (and it outgassed in a remarkably intense way for the first few days; it probably lost 3% of its mass to the atmosphere).

But the best part of the DRILL is the name. Or lack thereof. Usually, even cheap-ass, lousy kit will have some stupid brand name, like UltraDrill, or DrillPro, or whatever their marketing guy found when he dug through DeWalt's marketing department dumpster. But this has NOTHING. Nada. Nill. There's a tiny sticker on the side, and it says:

18V DRILL

If you hate marketing bluster, ladies and gentlemen, this is the product for you. Unfortunately, I have no idea where you can get one!

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@pctechxp

"I mean they dont have specilist petrol nozzles as the filling station for each type of car now do they?"

plese do not give them idars

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consumables

Electricity is a comodity but by changing the shape of the plug and requiring odd voltages they can make it a specilist product and charge more. The charger market is similar to the ink cartridge market. Ink being a liquid will fit into any shaped container. That's why they don't put a screw cap on the ink cartridge because then it would be too easy to refill. By making it a special shape they can take something inherantly compatible like ink and make it incompatible.

The 3rd party makers of these items are simply trying to undo these incompatibilitys and make a profit.

The consumer would be much better off if ink was sold in bottles and there were say three power plugs, 5V, 12V and 24V, the latter being high power. Mini USB for 5V, 2.1mm for 12V and a fatter one for 24V. It would then be up to the device to do any further regulation.

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Paris Hilton

re: MOBE

Icon to piss everyone else off.

Oh, and although yes, Michael they don't have different fuel nozzles for different kinds of car, they do have different fuel nozzles for different kinds of fuel, not that that stopped me tanking up an old allegro with diesel many years ago... took ages using the choke as an accelerator to use that crappy mess up.

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