Infrared ‘gun’ style thermometers have become popular during the pandemic but the inexpensive ones sold on popular online marketplaces, including Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY) may give dangerously inaccurate temperature readings, new data reveals.
Consumer group Which? has warned these products may have not been adequately checked or safety monitored by the platforms.
This could have serious consequences for parents using the devices to check if their babies are ill as well as for adults, especially given that having a fever is a symptom of COVID-19.
And thermometers play a crucial role now more than ever before, with body temperatures determining whether people will be allowed to board a flight or enter an office.
“Consumers should not have to face a lottery when buying a thermometer online, particularly given these products have taken on a greater importance due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sue Davies, Which? head of consumer protection policy.
Which? tested eight non-contact thermometers from AliExpress, Amazon, eBay and Wish, all sold for under £10 ($13). All of them featured near the top of the online marketplaces’ listings for obvious search terms such as ‘forehead thermometer’.
Its experts found that three of the eight were "wildly inaccurate" and could lead users to believe they were “hotter than they actually were.”
An infrared thermometer, bought from Amazon for £6.37 and with almost 2,000 customer ratings, was the least reliable of all thermometers tested.
This product was branded as the Aicare A66 but upon further investigation, Which? believes the product it tested could be a counterfeit. The instructions were incomplete and key information about how to test the product was missing.
Two thermometers Which? bought from sellers on eBay and one from Amazon repeatedly failed to provide accurate temperature readings. Which? has labelled these products as ‘Don't Buys’.
Seven of the eight products, even the ones that provided more accurate temperature readings, were either missing CE marks completely or the CE marks provided did not comply with the law.
These marks are meant to show that the manufacturer has checked that the product meets all safety, health and environmental requirements.
A KRK non contact infrared thermometer, bought from eBay for £8.59, and a JK-A007 Digital temperature thermometer, purchased from eBay for £6.89, also performed poorly.
The online marketplaces said that they had removed the products flagged by Which?.
Which? said the government needs to do more to prevent unsafe products being sold online by bringing in tougher laws and regulations to make online marketplaces legally responsible for products.
Its advice to consumers is to be wary of cheap thermometers sold on online marketplaces.
“Consider paying a bit more and buying from a reputable brand and retailer to ensure it gives out accurate temperature readings. Which? has tested models that are accurate and cost £20,” it said.
A Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency notice in July this year warned of an increase in the number of inaccurate infrared thermometers making their way onto the UK market.
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