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Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Hong Kong watchdog warns of electric shocks and other risks as popular hotplates fail safety tests

  • Nine major brand models tested by Consumer Council were unable to pass all eight safety requirements
  • Appliances were also not reliable at the basic function of heating food
PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 2:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 9:04pm

Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog has warned users of risks ranging from electric shock to excessive temperatures after finding that none of the major-brand electric hotplates in its recent test met basic international safety standards.

The nine models tested were unable to pass all eight safety requirements and were also not reliable in their performance of the basic function of heating food, the Consumer Council said on Monday.

The price of the appliance – prices ranged from HK$568 (US$73) to HK$998 – was not necessarily an indicator of safety or performance. All but one of the products were made in China. The remaining product’s location of manufacture was unknown.

The watchdog called the results “disappointing”, noting the rise in popularity of these items as a convenient appliance in Hong Kong kitchens in recent years.

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Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han said this meant regulators needed to pay more attention to such electric heaters.

“They are new and popular, so we urge them to have more tests on these products in the future,” she said.

Seven of the nine appliances tested were found to have design flaws that could lead to electric shocks if they were not used properly. When they were plugged in at an angle, as could be the case in cramped kitchens, areas carrying live electric current were not properly covered.

Two samples were found to be at risk of leaking electric current, creating the potential for a short circuit or electric shock. During certain tests, these leakage rates were significantly higher than the standard upper limit.

All nine appliances had areas that became excessively hot. Those hot spots included places users would be likely to touch, not necessarily expecting them to be hot, such as the lid handle and the on-off switch. The appliances were missing proper labels alerting consumers to this danger.

“Our tests show that there are some areas which are far from satisfactory,” said Clement Chan Kam-wing, chairman of the council’s publicity and community relations committee, noting that in general the products were not rated as unsafe, but consumers needed to exercise caution.

“With due care, potential accidents could be prevented,” he said.

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As for how well these appliances performed for cooking purposes, all the models left something to be desired. The council found a wide variation in temperature between different parts of the plates, when heated. Two of the models had areas that exhibited a difference of 60 degrees Celsius.

“For those customers who are really demanding on cooking quality then you have to look at the evenness of heat,” Wong said.

The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department said it had reviewed the Consumer Council’s findings and found all samples passed the test for electric insulation. As for other failures in the council’s test, the department said the poor performance resulted from improper use. Still, it asked suppliers to rectify the issues and improve their performance.

The department added the products were safe if consumers followed the manufacturer’s instructions.