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Buying electrical products online – is cheaper always better?

This article was published in December 2020 and may be outdated.

Many of us are shopping online more than ever. But with that comes an almost limitless number of sellers looking for your money and offering low prices for a variety of electrical products.

But is cheaper better?

Remember quality and safety can be compromised on goods with low, low prices. And online companies that sell substandard goods can disappear quickly, leaving you with an unusable product and out your money.

Example? A lookalike phone charger may seem like a bargain, but it may also fail basic safety standards, damaging your expensive device — or worse, starting a fire.

Before you hit the “Buy Now” button to treat yourself or buy a gift, here are a few things to consider.

  • Research companies
    Before you buy, check out the website where you found the product. Do the pictures look professional? Are there basic spelling mistakes? Does the site include safety information about the product? Reputable companies are proud of their products and will provide a phone number, address, and details on how to return items. These are indications of authenticity.
  • Inspect packaging
    When you receive your item, check the packaging quality and condition. Look for recognized certification markings from an accredited agency. Anything damaged or looks as if it’s been resealed is suspect. Also check for spelling errors and other signs it may not be from a reputable source. Are there even readable, proper instructions for its use?
  • Check connections
    Take the product out of its package and check to see that all the electrical cords and switches fit properly. Some off-brand products could be recycled goods that have been repaired with faulty or incompatible components and sold at rock-bottom prices. Anything loose or damaged shouldn’t be used. Send it back, if you can.

The trick is to take an extra minute to review your purchase before parting with your money. Be wary when you spot cheap electrical goods sold online. Protect your family from crummy products and bargains that seem too good to be true.

Learn more about electrical and natural gas safety at home.