A drone with razor-sharp rotor blades, balcony solar systems that interfere with other electronics and bloated batteries that could soon catch fire: such dangerous and illegal electronic products have recently been offered on the Internet in significantly larger quantities in Germany than before.

As the Federal Network Agency reported in response to a dpa request, 1,358 articles on online platforms were removed by official order in the first half of 2023. The products had a number of pieces of about 45 million. In the entire previous year there were 2629 removed offers with a number of around 13 million.

Online trading exacerbates the problem

A reason for the increase was not given. The numbers fluctuate year after year, in 2021 1936 offers were eliminated for a total of 21 million units. The different values ​​are also due to the fact that in some years there are electronic items that are in large quantities in stock, and in other years there are products with only relatively small sales volumes.

“With the increasing importance of online trading, the problem of prohibited products has also intensified,” says Tobias Alm, the network agency’s market monitor. “We recommend consumers to be vigilant when shopping online and to examine offers of very cheap products critically.” The price should be plausible compared to competing products. Electrical items often lack the CE mark, which the manufacturer uses to declare that all legal requirements are met. However, the mark is not a guarantee for the safety of a product.

Many products from China

A buyer should be suspicious if the product is not accompanied by a German-language operating manual including instructions for use and warnings. Another tip is to find out more about the seller from consumer advice centers.

A large part of the withdrawn products comes from China. The products do not meet EU safety standards, so they are considered dangerous and must be withdrawn from the market. However, you can still buy them online. For test purposes, the network agency orders and checks the goods itself. In the event of defects, she orders the supplier to take the goods off the market and no longer sell them in Germany.

According to the authorities, many products pose a risk of injury or even death. Incorrectly installed electrical devices can cause electric shocks, radio-controlled sockets become too hot and ignite because there is no overload protection. Wireless headphones and even LED headlights, on the other hand, transmit on the wrong frequency and thus disrupt communication between the police and rescue services.

Unsafe beauty brushes and illegal jammers per se

Among the devices that the Federal Network Agency is taking off the market are unsafe beauty brushes and jammers that are illegal per se. These jammers are also called “jammers”. For example, they are used to manipulate slot machines or steal cars. Such transmitters are used, for example, to copy signals from car remote controls and interrupt GPS signals from cars.

Customs also keeps withdrawing orders from abroad or holiday souvenirs – in cooperation with the network agency. In 2023, customs made 2,613 reports of suspicious consignments with a total of 0.69 million items in the first half of the year. In the entire previous year there were 4765 reports with a number of 0.72 million.

The German Trade Association rates the large number of unsafe products from China and other countries as unacceptable. The Vice General Manager of the German Trade Association, Stephan Tromp, points out that domestic trading companies spend a lot of money to comply with all laws and regulations. The Chinese providers did not comply with the local safety, environmental and consumer protection regulations and obtained “a price advantage based on breaches of the law”. “There can no longer be any talk of fair competition.”

Appeal to politicians: More speed

“The market needs effective guardrails that mark the playing field in which the competition takes place,” says the association representative. Tromp demanded that politics must ensure a level playing field and enforce the laws and regulations with all determination. The fact that the EU is aiming to abolish the 150-euro exemption limit at customs in 2028 is a “step towards more fairness in competition between EU and non-EU traders,” says Tromp, but it is regrettable that this measure only take hold in five years.

A spokesman for Germany’s E-Commerce and Mail Order Association also stressed the importance of enforcing European sales regulations so that everyone has a level playing field. He points out that trading platforms have already done a lot to increase security. They have their own systems in operation, with which non-compliant products are removed from the range.