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Beware! That Fake Charger Could Kill You

21 July, 2014

Source: ICT Africa

Kihara Kimachia:

Yes, that's right and this is not being alarmist but fact based on recent actual deaths of people while using fake mobile phone and laptop chargers. From china to Australia, the Internet is awash with stories of people being electrocuted by faulty chargers. In almost all cases, these devices are not original manufacturer issue but fake imitations.

On the 28th of April 2014, a woman of Filipino origin living in New South Wales, Australia was electrocuted to death when a faulty $4.95 phone charger sent a high-voltage electrical current into her mobile phone. The current transferred to the headphones she had connected to a laptop and she was found dead some hours later by relatives. Investigations by Australian authorities have so far revealed that the charger was non-compliant with Australian Safety Standards and wasn't certified for sale in the country. The kiosk that sold the charge is now facing a possible fine of "up to $875,000 and a two-year custodial sentence" according to the Sidney Morning Herald.

In July 2013, Chinese State Media reported that a woman in China was electrocuted to death while using a non-Apple-made iPhone 4 battery charger.

We have previously highlighted the dangers of counterfeit electronics. "Africa is the largest counterfeit consuming region in the world due to weak enforcement regimes." It is actually surprising that more of these kinds of accidents have not been reported across Africa. We speculate that this could be due to the media in Africa not giving these kinds of stories prominence due to other more depressing newsworthy content.

Take a walk around any major city in Africa and you will be shocked at the sheer quantity of counterfeit electronics retailing in shops and kiosks. Much of this equipment does not meet safety standards and has not been put through rigorous fault testing. Despite the fact that many African nations have anti-counterfeit agencies to prevent imports of fake electronics, the importers are usually well heeled individuals with the financial muscle to "lubricate" the system and ensure unfettered passage of their contraband through border checks.

It is estimated that as many as 50 percent of mobile phone users in Africa are using fake mobile phone chargers without knowing it. As already seen from the deaths reported on other continents, counterfeit phone chargers put the health and safety of users at great risk. They pose a serious danger on three fronts. First, the charger can fail as a result of a poor quality capacitor and circuit protector. This then allows a high voltage current to pass through the charging cable to the phone battery. Since phones cannot cope with high voltage, the current jumps into the body which is a better conductor of electricity the moment the user picks up the phone while it is still connected to the charger; this is what is speculated to have happened to the Sydney woman. The second way a fake charger can send you to an early grave is if it was intended for use in a country where the mains electricity rating is much lower than the country where it was shipped. For example, if a charger is specifically made for a market with a residential voltage rating of 110 volts such as japan, you cannot use it in Nigeria where the power rating is 240 volts. The charger would certainly overload. Finally, the charger could have poor insulation and expose the user to potential electrocution.

The practical cost saving appeal of a cheap charger may be difficult to ignore but consider this, paying a bit more for an original may save your life.


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