Trading Standards Institute Advice
Second-hand electrical goods
In the guide
- Your responsibilities
- Be sure electrical equipment is safe
- Wiring colour codes
- Plugs & sockets
- Safe fireguards for electric fires
- Selling electric blankets
If second-hand electrical goods are to be sold they must meet the legal safety requirements
This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales
Sellers of second-hand electrical goods are responsible for ensuring the goods meet legal safety requirements and sellers may be liable to pay compensation if they sell unsafe goods, which then cause injury or damage. If the equipment you are selling complies with an acceptable standard - for example, a British / European Standard - it will normally meet safety requirements.
Distributors and retailers, including second-hand dealers and auctions, must only sell appliances that are correctly fitted with an approved plug, with sleeved neutral and live pins, and the correct fuse. Electric fires for use in the home must have a fireguard that meets British Standards, or the European equivalent.
If you are in the business of selling any second-hand electrical goods, you should be aware of the following:
- the goods must meet legal safety requirements
- if you sell unsafe goods, and the goods cause injury or damage, you may have to pay compensation
If you are unsure whether the goods are safe, it is recommended that a competent person examines the goods for access to live parts, the adequacy of the insulation, and creepage and clearance distances. The items tested should be clearly identified in a report describing the test(s) carried out and the results. The tester should also label each item to show it has passed and include the date and their initials. All failed equipment should be destroyed if it cannot be safely repaired.
You should also check whether the electrical appliances are subject to a recall. The Product Recall section of the GOV.UK website contains links to various providers of product recall information, including recalls of electrical products.
It is good practice to advise all staff that no electrical goods are to be sold unless an indicator label is attached. Keep all test reports for your own reference and for the purpose of showing to enforcement officers if requested.
Be sure electrical equipment is safe
The equipment you sell must be safe. If it complies with an acceptable standard - for example, a British / European Standard - it will normally meet safety requirements.
These safety requirements cover:
- labelling, construction, design and manufacture
- insulation and earthing
- protection from electric shock
- adequate guards for radiant heaters or moving parts
- preventing the generation of excessive heat, radiation or toxic gases
- the need to provide instructions for safe use
Wiring colour codes
The wires of a 3-core mains flexible lead must be coloured as follows:
- earth - green and yellow
- neutral - blue
- live - brown
Make sure the lead is safe and there is no fraying, nor any breaks, kinks or exposed wires. If you change a lead, have it checked by an electrician. Incorrect wiring may cause electrocution.
Plugs & sockets
Distributors and retailers, including second-hand dealers and auctions, must only sell appliances that are correctly fitted with an approved plug with sleeved neutral and live pins and the correct fuse. An approved plug is one that complies with BS 1363.
All plugs must carry the name and reference number of the approval body, normally BSI (British Standards Institution) or ASTA (ASTA Diamond Mark, run by Intertek). The plug does not have to be moulded on but it must be fused with the appropriate fuse link.
Some appliances may be supplied without a standard plug - electric cookers for instance - because the appliance is intended to be permanently connected to fixed wiring.
We recommend that you fit appliances with new plugs before sale and dispose of the old ones. The lead must be securely clamped by a cord grip on to the outer insulating flex to prevent excess strain at the wire terminations. The inner cores of flex in the plug must be of the correct length to prevent arcing and securely fastened at the appropriate terminations.
You must provide clear wiring instructions for the plug if it is of the rewirable kind, even if you have fitted it yourself (for example, manufacturer's wiring card fitted over the pins).
All sockets (for example, on mains extension flexible leads), adaptors and similar devices must meet British Standards.
Safe fireguards for electric fires
Electric fires for use in the home must have a fireguard that meets British Standards or the European equivalent. The distance between the bars and the strength of the guard are laid down in these standards.
The fireguard is satisfactory if any vertical bars are 5mm or less apart, otherwise the guard must satisfy one of the following:
- if the horizontal bars are 12mm or less apart, the vertical bars must not be more than 126mm apart
- if the horizontal bars are 20mm or less apart, the vertical bars must not be more than 53mm apart
Selling electric blankets
We advise you not to sell second-hand electric blankets, as their history, usage and condition may be unknown.
If you sell second-hand electrical goods that are unsafe or incorrectly labelled, and you haven't taken reasonable precautions to avoid this, you may be prosecuted and/or face civil litigation. (Taking reasonable precautions means you must take positive steps to ensure that you comply with the law. In most cases this will mean having the goods checked by a qualified electrician.)
The maximum penalty is a fine and 12 months' imprisonment. However, where it can be shown that an offence has been committed with the consent, or owing to the fault, of a single director, manager or similar company officer, such persons may additionally be held liable for a range of other offences, including manslaughter.
Last reviewed / updated: December 2017
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.
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