Osram advises retailers on risk of selling substandard and illegal LED lighting

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More than 70 substandard or illegal LED-based products have had to be withdrawn from sale in the four years since Europe began phasing out incandescent light bulbs in favour of more sustainable light-emitting diodes (LEDs), according to lighting firm Osram. 

These products, many of them substandard imports, range from individual LED bulbs to complete lighting solutions for industrial, professional and consumer use, Osram said. They were removed as a precautionary measure by the European Commission (EC) to protect buyers from potential risks including electric shock, burns or even fire. 

Osram said it is committed to helping firms invest in safe and secure LED lighting products that meet their needs and budgets without compromising on quality and efficiency.

“LED lighting products have transformed the lighting industry. Genuine, high-quality LED products are up to 90% more energy-efficient and offer lower total cost of ownership,” said Jason Ford, UK controls manager at Osram. “However, it can be difficult for customers to know if the product they are buying is everything it claims to be, and the EC list of substandard solutions makes for worrying reading. 

“While the law helps to protect customers from hazardous products, lighting users should also be vigilant towards cheap LEDs as many give poor performance in terms of brightness and lifespan. Although these are within legal safety limits, they still constitute the risk of wasted investment.

“We have therefore developed guidance that we hope will help customers to navigate their way through the market and find a solution they can rely on; one that is backed by years of research and development and exhaustive safety testing,” Ford said.

Osram offers the following advice to buyers of LED lighting solutions:

  • Buy reputable brands from reputable sellers. This advice is the same for individual light bulbs to complete luminaires and lighting installations Choose a well-established company that will still be around when the warranty expires, and which continues to invest in new product innovation
  • Contractors hired to install lighting solutions have a legal liability period that can be as short as 12 months – long before some substandard products can reveal themselves.  Again, using a reputable lighting brand can reassure customers both during and after the liability period
  • Choose products with lifespan guarantees
  • Check the IP ratings for products are specified for their intended use. This is particularly important where the lighting is intended for external use or where weather or water-proofing is required
  • Check for the CE mark – but be aware that even this is sometimes used fraudulently. Some substandard products carry a mark that looks a lot like the CE mark, but means ‘China Export’ rather than ‘Conformité Européenne’. The diagram below shows the subtle difference:

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The full list of withdrawn products can be found in the EC’s rapid alert system for non-food dangerous products (RAPEX) database. Examples include a 30kg ceiling lighting installation that could easily fall; light fittings with a casing so sharp, it cut through live electrical wires; a children’s dog-shaped torch that had live electrical components exposed during charging; outdoor Christmas lights that offered no protection from water; electrical cables attached to plugs using knots, weak soldering or flimsy hot adhesive; insufficiently heat-resistant plastic plugs; and chargers that melted.

In the UK, the Lighting Industry Association (LIA) and National Measurement Organisation (NMO) have launched a market surveillance project to crackdown on the substandard-quality LED imports.