Cheap USB charger causes death of Filipina in Australia

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A young woman died from electrocution while using a cheap, non-compliant USB-style charger for her laptop and smart phone. She was found with burns on her chest and ears at her home in Gosford, northern region of Sydney. Due to this incident, Australian authorities issued an official warning against buying those kinds of USB chargers.

The 28-year-old female victim was wearing headphones with her laptop on her lap when she was found. Reports say that the woman is from the Philippines and she had recently become an Australian citizen. Investigation on her death is still ongoing, but the Department of Fair Trading who is assisting with the investigation suggests that a sub-standard mobile phone charger could be largely at fault.

Lynelle Collins from the New South Wales Department of Fair Trading discusses this theory with AFP.

“The phone was also plugged into a USB-style charger. That charger had failed. Somehow power from that charger has connected to her body. Whether she had it (the phone) to her ear or was holding it in her hand, we don’t know.” she said.

Collins say that generally, people should avoid using their mobile phones while it is charging. More ever, they should avoid using non-compliant and fake chargers altogether.

“We are trying to alert people to the concern that sometimes when you buy really cheap chargers, they aren’t compliant with (safety) standards,” she said.

Immediately after the incident, Fair Trading removed several unapproved and non-compliant USB-style chargers, travel adaptors and power boards from sale in Sydney. These devices did not meet safety requirements and were usually made up of inferior plastics and insulation materials.

Rod Stowe, Fair Trading Commissioner said that these devices could really cause harm.

“These devices pose a serious risk of electrocution or fire,” he said.

There is a maximum penalty of AUS$87,500 (US$82,500) and/or two years imprisonment for any individual selling devices that do not meet Australian standards. The fine for a corporation is AUS$875,000.

In Australia, the woman’s death is the only known case linked to a non-compliant USB charger , but reports from China last 2013 said that there was also a victim of electrocution while a woman was making a call on her phone while it was charging through the same non-compliant kind of charger.

Campsie business sold the non-compliant charger to the woman and according to Stowe, the company faces the maximum penalty for the crime, including a two-year custodial sentence.

There was a shopfront and a stall at the front of the registered business location of Campsie, but both were shut down. There were hundreds of non-compliant USB chargers found.

“All the products have been removed. We went out there as soon as possible when we were notified,” Collins said.