London Fire Brigade

Fake iPhone charger danger revealed by Brigade

05 September 2014

We’ve released a new report warning of the dangers of counterfeit Apple iPhone chargers, which could put people’s lives at risk.

The stark warning, ahead of the launch of Apple’s iPhone 6 next week, follows a number of incidents involving counterfeit iPhone chargers, including one in February when firefighters were called to a house in Tottenham after an imitation charger caught fire while charging.

Our investigation

Our fire investigation experts carried out a range of tests on a number of widely available counterfeit chargers and say people who use these dodgy devices could be risking electrocution, burns or even a serious house fire.

Fire investigator Andrew Vaughan–Davies said: “I was shocked at how potentially dangerous these chargers are. There have been some near misses in the last few months and, unless people stop buying them, it’s only a matter of time before we are called to a fatal fire.

“Genuine chargers may cost more and you may think you are only paying for the brand name, but you’re actually buying peace of mind because you know the charger is going to be of better quality and specifically designed for your phone.

"For the sake of saving a few pounds is it worth putting the lives of your family at risk and taking the chance of potentially destroying your home?”

The two genuine Apple iPhone chargers analysed by investigators had 60 or more components in their circuitry while the sub-standard chargers had, on average, less than half that number.

Mr Vaughan-Davies added: “It is very difficult to see how the counterfeit models can be performing to the same standards as a genuine charger.”

We have also been contacted by concerned Londoners seeking advice after finding the casing of their counterfeit iPhone chargers scorched or burned after use. 

Some counterfeit chargers can be bought for as little as 99p and, as well as putting people at risk of fire and injury, investigators warned they could cause damage to the iPhone being charged.

As part of our investigation, we analysed and compared a number of chargers. Some were purchased from the internet, some were from incidents attended by firefighters and others were submitted by Trading Standards and Electrical Safety First.

How to spot a counterfeit iPhone charger

Investigators noticed a number of ‘tell-tale’ signs that gave the fake Apple iPhone chargers away.

  • The finish on the plug pins on genuine chargers was found to be matt and uniform, but on the counterfeit chargers the finish was found to be glossy/shiny and the pins irregularly angular.
  • The position of the USB sockets on the dodgy chargers was often found to be upside down when compared to the real product.
  • Genuine chargers were found to weigh over 40 grams, but the imitations tested were always found to weigh less.
  • The printed text on the faceplate was found to be a darker shade on the sub-standard chargers and the casing on the majority of counterfeit chargers tested was found not to be flame retardant.

Buying a replacement

Our top tips for buying replacement Apple iPhone chargers are:

  • Always buy from a reputable retailer to ensure you are getting a genuine charger.
  • Check the plug pins finish is matt and uniform.
  • Where possible check the charger weighs over 40 grams.
  • Check the colour of the text on the faceplate of the charger is light grey and not dark grey as often found on counterfeit chargers.
  • Check the position of the USB socket.

If you think you have got a counterfeit Apple iPhone charger, we’d advise you stop using it and replace it with a genuine charger bought from a reputable retailer.

Fire safety advice when using mains chargers

  • Always use a genuine charger that is right for your product. Chargers advertised as genuine on online shopping or auction sites may not always be authentic.
  • Do not over charge your product - once your item is fully charged, disconnect it and turn the charger off.
  • Never cover your charger – chargers give off a small amount of heat which may build up if they are covered up.
  • Never use a charger if it shows any signs of damage or appears to be not working properly.