eBay: unsafe items, and the lack of a proper complaints procedure

Lately, I’ve been working on the garden, getting rid of some old logs etc.  I also want to be able to handle large items around the garden and workshop in future: lifting paving slabs, tires, and the like.

So, I thought the ideal thing would be a chain block hoist.  Basically these are pulleys with chains pre-attached, and a bunch of hidden gears inside, which up-scale your gentle (around 25kg) pulling to 1 tonne of lifting capacity.  Very nice.  Add that you can hook them up anywhere, just like a regular pulley block, and you have a very simple, flexible tool, which adds a lot of capacity.  They are a little expensive for a couple of chains and a few gears though, running at around £70 in Screwfix Direct.  So, I figured I’d check ebay, just in case.

What I found on ebay was both shocking, and not at all surprising: a chain block that claims to offer twice the lifting capacity, 2 tonnes, at half the price.  What could possibly go wrong, right?  We’re only talking about lifting 2 tonnes ;)

Well, in this case, the ebay listing in question, from AIM Tools, includes a picture of its EC compliance certificate.  This certificate lists the category of item (“chain blocks”), the model numbers, the relevant EU standards, and certifies that those standards have been met.  So it sounds reasonable, on first glance.  Here’s the certificate, for the record:

Fraudulent Safety Certificate

A couple of things stood out, though.  The first was that the company name, on the actual product photos, was blurred out deliberately.  OK, though: maybe that’s just over-zealous business practice: a desire to prevent people from shopping around using the product name… perhaps.

The other thing was that the certificate was from an organisation I’ve never heard of: SCTEU, aka UK PRODUCT SAFETY TEST CENTER LTD.  Then again, I don’t buy a lot of hoisting equipment.  More interestingly, their scteu.org website was also down.  So I kept digging.

What I found was this insolvency record for scteu, saying that it has been closed down for providing fraudulent safety certificates without any legitimate appointment from government.

Now, that is enough fraud to get people killed.  But that’s life, right — someone is always out there, trying to take people on.

What’s worse, though, is that ebay don’t provide any real, functional way to report this: they have multi-level drop-down boxes, with options like:

Listing Practices -> Fraudulent Listing Activities -> You suspect that a listing is fraudulent


Prohibited and restricted items -> Other prohibited and restricted items -> Recalled items

Those are pretty much the best options I can find, along with a few similarly close-but-not-quite-right choices.  There’s no way that I’ve found to actually leave a comment explaining the issue.  At the very least, I’d have expected some way to submit a link to some official report on a product, such as the insolvency report above.

So, unless ebay are psychic, or launch a proper investigation of their own on every item that people complain about (unlikely), then they are extremely likely to simply say “I don’t see the problem”, and continue listing these things.

Which, again, is enough to get people killed, if some 2 tonne engine comes crashing down on them because the hoist they bought on ebay is fraudulent.

In conclusion, I think it’s time that ebay sorted out their complaints procedures.  It might be easier on the company to fit everything into simple categories and reject as many complaints as possible to avoid the work of following up, arguing with sellers, etc.  However, this dismissal of complaints is in NO WAY responsible corporate behaviour from a company with such a large e-commerce presence.

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