Why are cheap USB chargers dangerous?

Fatal electric shock: how dangerous are charging cables really?

Horror news: a girl falls asleep with her smartphone in hand, which is hanging on the charging cable, and is fatally electrocuted. According to the police, this happened in Vietnam. A message that lets users immediately take a critical look at their own smartphone charging cable. How dangerous can it really get?

Low risk with correctly manufactured cables

There are repeated reports of electric shocks from charging cables or devices. However, it should not be overlooked that little is known about the circumstances. Sometimes you don't find out which charger or cable it is or whether it was defective. In principle, the risk of a dangerous or life-threatening electric shock is very low, reassured a spokesman for TÜV Rheinland when asked by STANDARD. "With correctly manufactured charging cables and transformers, only low voltages or currents are used. Corresponding electronics in the charger ensure that the conditions in the household electricity network (for example 230 volts) are reduced accordingly."

However, you should be careful with cables with badly kinked or even bare areas where the insulation is missing. Broken cables should no longer be used and should be disposed of properly.

Beware of third-party charging cables

Many manufacturers recommend only using the original chargers and cables that are included with a smartphone or that are offered separately. This is not (only) an attempt to bring your own goods to customers. In the case of cheaply produced accessories from third-party suppliers or counterfeit products, problems can arise due to poor production quality. These range from data loss and irreparable damage to the device to electric shock.

The UK's Chartered Trading Standards Institute tested 400 counterfeit power supplies and chargers offered as Apple products earlier this year. A total of 397 failed the basic security check. In most cases the voltage was too high and there was a risk of electric shock.

The TÜV advises buying charging cables only from safe, trustworthy sources - "from manufacturers or dealers who are known to you, who have a reputation to lose as a 'brand', who have functioning quality assurance and who ideally have their products from Have independent and neutral bodies tested for security. "

One should pay attention to:

  • When buying, you should pay attention to the following information: the power supply units should have the CE seal, brand, model number and production batch. The CE mark indicates that the product complies with EU regulations. But be careful: this information can also be falsified. For example, if you buy a new Apple charging cable, you have to reckon with around 60 euros for the power supply unit. If the offer is significantly cheaper, it is advisable to be skeptical. In general, however, the price says nothing about product safety.
  • Warning and operating instructions should be read through: many devices must not be used in wet rooms. So you shouldn't necessarily charge a smartphone in the bathroom.
  • When charging, you should always check whether your smartphone or charger are getting too hot. In this case, the device must be disconnected from the power immediately.
  • To avoid unnoticed overheating, devices with rechargeable batteries should not be left unattended on the power cord for a long time - not even overnight. That's bad for the battery anyway.
  • Even if many smaller children already have smartphones today, they shouldn't be fiddling with power cables. (Birgit Riegler, November 19, 2017)