ZETY LTD of Factory 5, Haynes Point, Stourport Road, Kidderminster, DY117PZ and its Director Mr Biao PENG has been successfully prosecuted by Worcestershire County Council following an investigation by its Trading Standards team, which revealed numerous unsafe products in their Kidderminster warehouse. Products included unsafe electrical goods, unsafe toys, unsafe baby cots and upholstered furniture that failed flammability tests. Having been warned about the issues with these products, further checks some months later revealed that the company still possessed unsafe products that were likely to go into the UK supply chain.
At Kidderminster Magistrates Court on 17th November 2017 ZETY LTD and Biao PENG pleaded guilty to 12 offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and the General Product Safety Regulations 2005. The company was fined £9,600 and Mr PENG £2,350 by District Judge Cadbury and ordered to pay costs of £11,000 and £165 victim surcharge
The products initially tested by the local authority were being imported direct by the company from China and being sold online via their eBay trading account. After the initially issues were raised with them following the Trading Standards team’s intervention, it appears that the company attempted to change its operation and became a fulfilment house, simply sending out products that UK purchasers had brought from on-line traders based in China. The effectively meant that the company did not own the goods it supplied, it merely fulfilled orders placed with third parties.
Trading Standards Officers became aware of the issues following a routine visit in November 2015 to the company’s Kidderminster warehouse, when they became concerned about the safety and quality of goods being supplied. A range of products were taken and submitted for testing, which revealed a catalogue of serious safety failures.
These included electrical items with access to live parts and toy scooters that were poorly constructed and could collapse causing the potential for puncture wounds. There were also Infant cots supplied with mattresses that didn’t properly fit, leaving a gap that could create an entrapment and suffocation hazard. Also, aluminium ladders failed safety standard tests bending and becoming deformed when in use.
The company appeared to have quite a range of sofas and recliner chairs available. Officers submitted a number of pieces of upholstered furniture that failed flammability testing despite labels indicting they complied. During the testing of these the heat from the fire was so fierce that the test house had to abort the tests!
The County Council’s officers issued suspension notices to impound the goods and stop them being sold. The company was requested to contact consumers who had been sold the items to let them know of the failures and accept return of the products.
Investigations revealed there were no safety procedures in place relating to the products being sold. Mr PENG stated he relied on safety certificates for products being sold from by the sellers and manufacturers based in China without conducting any checks of his own.
Councillor Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member for Communities said
“Officers tell me that this is one of the worst examples of a company breaching consumer safety legislation that this service has had to deal with in recent times. It is particularly concerning when these serious safety issues were brought to the company’s attention by our officers they tried to change their business model and continued to offer unsafe goods.
This case also highlights the international nature of issues that our local team has to deal with. Whilst National Trading Standards teams at the border make some checks on the safety of products entering the UK, it is impossible for their small teams to look at everything so we have to work together and we deal with some of these issues locally. This service has a duty to protect the public and ensure a level playing field for business. We will not hesitate in take appropriate action where we find things are wrong, but we would also encourage members of the public buying on the internet to check they are dealing with businesses that ensure the products they supply are safe.”
Anyone purchasing products and discovering issues that they feel makes the item unsafe should report the matter to Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454-040506. CACS supplied details of all complaints to local Trading Standards services who can then act if products are unsafe or do not comply with relevant regulations.