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Business advice leaflet

Second-hand electrical goods

If second-hand electrical goods are to be sold they must meet the legal safety requirements

This guidance is for England, Scotland and 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 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.

In the guide

Your responsibilities

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.

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 and 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 or ASTA. The plug does not have to be moulded on but it must be fused.

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.

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 125mm apart
  • If the horizontal bars are 20mm or less apart, the vertical bars must not be more than 50mm apart

Selling electric blankets

We advise you not to sell second-hand electric blankets, as their history, usage and condition may be unknown.

Penalties

If you sell second-hand electrical goods, which are unsafe or incorrectly labelled, and you haven't taken reasonable precautions to avoid this, you may be prosecuted and/or face civil litigation.

You could be fined £5,000 and/or imprisoned for up to six months.

Taking reasonable precautions means you must take positive steps to ensure that you comply with the law. This will mean in most cases having the goods checked by a qualified electrician.

Key legislation

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted. Please contact us for further information.

Last reviewed/updated: December 2013

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