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The banned mini heaters still being sold online

These plug-in heaters can catch fire or explode, but they're still available on Amazon, eBay and other online retailers. 

two of the mini electric heaters available in australia
Last updated: 14 May 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Need to know

  • Plug-in electric heaters failed electric safety testing in the UK – but they're still being sold online in Australia
  • Amazon says it is reviewing these listings, and eBay has removed some listings, but at the time of publishing there are still products available to buy on their platforms 
  • CHOICE strongly advises against purchasing these mini heaters to help heat your home

Online retailers including eBay and Amazon are continuing to sell dangerous plug-in electric heaters, even after regulators effectively banned them from being sold in Australia. 

These miniature heaters are plugged directly into the power socket (that is, they don’t have a power cord) and use a fan to circulate hot air. 

They're cheap to buy – some less than $20 – and with the rising cost of living, many people may be enticed by what seems like a cheap and convenient way to heat their home. 

However, CHOICE warns against purchasing these unsafe and illegal heaters.

After we notified the ACCC about the heaters' safety failures, state regulatory bodies began monitoring retailers who continue to sell these products.

mini heater plugged in to power point on wall

These mini heaters plug directly into a power socket.

Mini heaters fail safety tests

In February last year, CHOICE's UK counterpart Which? tested 10 of these heaters in their product safety lab

Every single one of them failed their safety tests, with four of them presenting a risk of fire and – especially concerning – one presenting a risk of explosion due to counterfeit fuses.

We strongly advise against buying any of these mini heaters that plug into the wall: they carry serious risk of fire or electrical fault

Chris Barnes, CHOICE heating expert

The consumer organisation also uncovered evidence of sellers posting fake reviews and advertising to encourage people to buy these products.

CHOICE heating expert Chris Barnes alerted the ACCC about these dangerous heaters in February 2023, but says that electrical appliance safety and compliance in Australia is overseen by a complicated and convoluted system: different states use different rules and regulations, and there's no single consistent scheme across the country. 

"However, the ACCC is coordinating discussions on potential reforms that would lead to a nationally consistent electrical safety framework," says Chris.

Standards updated to exclude mini heaters

So what did these separate bodies do to ensure these dangerous heaters are taken off the market?

"Late in 2023, the electrical safety and performance standard for electric heaters was updated to effectively prevent these mini heaters from being certified safe. That means that they can't be sold in Australia," Chris says. 

"We strongly advise against buying any of these mini heaters that plug into the wall.

"Although they may seem like a cheap and convenient option for heating, they carry serious risk of fire or electrical fault – and they probably won't be that effective or efficient at heating your home either."

mini heater side on

Side view of a plug-in mini electric heater.

Queensland takes action

"To bolster the changes to the standard, in March 2024, Queensland issued a Prohibition Notice for these mini heaters," says Chris.

"That makes it easier for a safety inspector to act immediately if they find these heaters for sale – they can immediately order them removed from sale and take action against the retailer."

The Prohibition Notice took effect on 6 March 2024, and some online platforms are removing these products from sale in Australia.

We contacted Carl Porritt, from the Queensland Electrical Safety Office, who told us that when these mini heaters came to light in 2023, regulators were horrified and moved quickly to prevent them from being sold. Certifiers were directed not to certify them.

The safety office also issued the Prohibition Notice, which makes it illegal to sell these types of heaters in Queensland.

When these mini heaters came to light in 2023, regulators moved quickly to prevent them from being sold

"I also have inspectors tackling the online platforms and checking a few of the cheap stores around Queensland," he says.

What about the rest of the country?

Carl says that he expects most national suppliers will comply with the ban across the country, rather than just in individual states.

"The usual outcome is that suppliers operate nationally, and when we act under our jurisdiction, 99.9% of companies apply the ban nationally, otherwise they will be answering to every jurisdiction which quickly becomes unmanageable," he says.

"All jurisdictions are now aware of the matter, and I am confident if they detect items displayed for sale in their jurisdictions they will act promptly as well."

Amazon and eBay respond

We contacted Amazon and eBay to alert them to these products being sold on their platforms. They both replied on the same day we contacted them, then issued official statements a few days later.

"We require all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws, regulations and Amazon policies. The products in question are currently being reviewed," an Amazon spokesperson said.

The products in question are currently being reviewed

Amazon spokesperson

eBay supplied a longer statement. Here are some of the key points:

"We work closely with the ACCC as well as state-based safety regulators on both existing and emerging safety risks," the statement said.

"Our team has already been in contact with the Queensland Electrical Safety regulator in relation to the prohibition and has been working to update our controls in advance of its commencement in July 2024.

"We have removed the items CHOICE identified and have also swept our site to remove similar listings from sale. We are also reviewing mechanisms including our filters and blocks to stop these items from being listed in the future.

We have removed the items CHOICE identified and have also swept our site to remove similar listings from sale

eBay spokesperson

"eBay is the only Australian online marketplace to offer a regulatory portal. The portal enables trusted regulators to identify and request direct removal of items from the eBay marketplace. 

"Items reported via the portal are removed within two hours. ACCC, TGA as well as a number state-based safety regulators utilise the portal to report items of concern."

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.