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Business owners risk jail time after phone charger raids

Date

Emma Partridge

Two business owners are facing prosecution after shops selling dodgy phone chargers were targeted in more than 260 raids this week, which follows the electrocution of a central coast mother of two.

NSW Fair Trading officers swooped on market stalls, mobile phone shops and convenience stores and found a dozen businesses selling cheap knock-offs and faulty electrical goods.

The two owners face maximum penalties of up to $87,500 and two years' imprisonment. 

The raids across 21 suburbs come after Sheryl Anne Aldeguer, 28, was found dead with burns on her ears and chest after a $4.95 charger sent a high current  through her body at her Gosford home, according to Fair Trading. A mobile phone business is facing prosecution over the sale of the charger.

The Filipino national had been Skypeing with a friend overseas with her notebook computer resting on her chest when she died some time on the night of April 22. Her friends found her dead the following day.

During inspections this week, officers seized 76 potentially deadly electrical items, mainly chargers and adaptors. 

Undercover inspections also took place at Paddy's Markets at Haymarket and at Dapto markets. Six stall holders were found selling USB phone chargers similar to the one believed to have killed Aldeguer. 

NSW Fair Trading Minister Matthew Mason-Cox said rogue traders selling unapproved electrical goods would continue to be targeted during coming weeks.

"Unapproved electrical goods can be potential death traps, putting consumers at serious risk," Mr Mason-Cox said. 

Adam Coady said he bought a USB charger identical to the ones seized by Fair Trading off an eBay supplier in NSW. When he plugged it in, her got an immediate electric shock.

"It was similar to the feeling when you touch an electric fence, though definitely not as strong," he said. "It didn't throw me, it just felt gave me a bit of a zap."

The seller replaced it for him. The USB chargers are still for sale on the eBay page. 

Farmer Eedra Zey bought a $9.99 emergency charger from a convenience store on Pitt Street when she visited Sydney in December. It caused her iPhone to explode and she has taken the seller, City Supermarket, to the consumer tribunal. The store initially agreed to pay for a new iPhone. 

"[The charger] smoked when I plugged it in and turned it on," Ms Zey said, "It sparked, went bang and then the lights went out in the hotel room. It was a frightening experience."

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