Our home was destroyed after my son's 'ticking time bomb' Christmas present exploded – it left us with nothing | The Sun

A DEVASTATED father has warned other parents to avoid a big mistake when buying Christmas gifts after his home was destroyed.

Andrew Beaton, 59, from Lancashire thought he was giving his son a dream present of an e-bike to open on December 25 last year.

But the gift turned into a nightmare and "went off like a grenade" when it was plugged in to charge one night – sparking a huge fire that left the family without a home for months.

He said: "Like any parent I wanted to see my kids smile on Christmas day.

"The e-bike was a Christmas gift for my son, something I thought he’d love but when it was charging overnight by the stairs it went off like a grenade.

"Our stairs caught alight and my family were minutes from not making it out alive.

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"Since the fire our home was so damaged we couldn’t live in it. We were left without our home for six months, only moving back in last week.

"My children are still affected by the fire.

"The trauma of it doesn’t leave you when you’re faced with flames in the middle of the night like we were, nobody can understand what it’s like seeing your home go up in flames until it happens to them.

"This Christmas I am so grateful my family are alive and safe.

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"If it hadn’t been for my son getting up in the night for a glass of water and noticing the fire starting I don’t think we’d all be here today."

The father-of-five is now warning other parents to avoid the same mistake, as many turn to online marketplaces in a bid to cut costs this Christmas.

He said "An innocent purchase I bought online from a marketplace destroyed our home and left us with nothing.

"I want to warn other people out there shopping online for Christmas gifts to be careful.

"I thought what I was buying would be safe but it was a ticking time bomb.

"Stick to your reputable high street retailers if you can, nobody wants to end up buying a gift that risks the safety of your family.”

Air fryers, hairdryers and straighteners are among the most in-demand items that bargain hunters are shopping for this year, according to Electrical Safety First (ESF).

The safety group found that over half of shoppers have already done their Christmas shopping for electronics via online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon Marketplace, Facebook Marketplace and TikTok Shop.

But they risk unwrapping dangerous items on the big day, which could cause electric shocks, or like the Beaton family, life-threatening fires.

“Many households have struggled in yet another year of financial pressure and are desperately seeking to keep the cost of Christmas down,” said Lesley Rudd, chief executive of ESF.

“But their scramble for air fryers and other must-have electronics this year could leave them vulnerable, with ruthless sellers on online marketplaces looking to cash in on Christmas at the expense of shoppers’ safety.”

Signs that an item might not be up to scratch include plugs without fuses, non-UK plugs and travel adaptors in the box.

A lack of instructions or spelling and grammar mistakes where there are manuals are also red flags.

Mobile phones, game consoles and smart speakers are also on shoppers' Christmas lists, along with TVs, tablets and chargers.

Christmas lights also pose a risk if shoppers don't check they are buying from a reputable seller.

“Dried out trees can go up like a bonfire if a spark ignites,” Lesley Rudd adds.

"Check your lights for frayed wires which can produce heat and avoid leaving them turned on overnight.

"If a fire occurs when you are sleeping your response time can be hugely delayed. This Christmas the best silent night is one with no switched-on lights.”

Families should also check older equipment which can become damaged over time.

Consumer group Which? previously found fairy lights for sale online that failed to meet safety standards required for electrical equipment.

It has also warned about "energy saving" devices being sold online that could cause house fires, explosions and electric shocks.

An eBay spokesperson said: "Every day, thousands of people use eBay to buy and sell safely and successfully, and we work constantly to keep our marketplace safe.

"Choosing to shop refurbished is the perfect way to save money and keep items out of landfill, whilst still getting the brands and products you want.

"We recommend shopping Refurbished on eBay and checking out our grading system. Whether an item is Certified (direct from brand) or Good (approved reseller) all items come with a 12-month warranty, so you can shop with confidence.

“If any item arrives and it’s not what was expected, our shoppers are also covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee.”

How to stay safe shopping online

Online marketplaces are not required to ensure the safety of electrical products listed for sale.

It means shoppers could end up buying items that aren't up to scratch.

ESF recommends always buying items from a retailer you trust, like directly with the brand that makes the item or a high street name.

Some reputable retailers do sell on online marketplaces – but it's not always easy for shoppers to spot the difference between these and third-party sellers.

The safety group has a browser extension that can be used on Chrome, Firefox, MS Edge and Safari to identify the sellers to avoid.

Called Check it Out, you can find it at www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/check-it-out/.

It will automatically highlight when you're not buying directly from a manufacturer or retailer.

If you're planning to shop online with marketplaces here's what you need to know, according to Citizens Advice.

Check the product details: this should include: photos; a description; cost of the item; delivery charges; contact details for the seller; and any cancellation rights.

If information is missing and it's a private seller, it can make it difficult for you to ask for your money back.

Check if the product is being sold by a trader or a private seller – this is important as your rights are different.

Read previous reviews as these can often flag potential issues; but watch out for fake reviews. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Take screenshots of the item you want to buy. This will come in handy if the item you receive is different to what you saw on the website.

Use a payment method that protects you – a credit card is best. But debit cards and Paypal offer come protection. Avoid paying by bank transfer.

Go back to the seller if there’s a problem: explain what’s happened, how you’d like them to fix it and give a deadline for them to respond.

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If they don’t sort it out, see if there’s an alternative dispute resolution service that can help.

Report them and the online marketplace to Trading Standards if you think the issue is unfair and if the product you've purchased is unsafe.

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