A wannabe entrepreneur who sold potentially lethal electrical items on eBay has been hit by fines and costs of £10,000.
The laptop adaptors and fairy lights were so dangerous they could have sparked a fire or electric shock when plugged in, Birmingham Magistrates Court heard.
Emma Hall, prosecuting, said officers from Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards team first launched a probe into Jeiming Ma after a tip-off from colleagues in Devon in November 2011.
“A consumer complained to Devon Trading Standards after they brought a laptop adaptor which started to smoulder and produce smoke when it was used,” added Miss Hall. “They found a hole had burnt into the cable flex near to the plug.”
She said the team found the item had been sold on shopping website eBay through an account run by Harborne-based company OMA Global Ltd, which is owned by Ma.
Posing as customers, officers ordered an £8 laptop adaptor from the site and gave it to experts to analyse, who found it failed to comply with safety standards.
Officers then swooped on several addresses in Harborne, as well as a storage firm in Duddeston, where they found seven units filled with more than 28,000 adaptors and lighting worth around £230,000.
“A sample of the products was tested and they were found to have serious faults and could have caused a fire or electric shock,” added Miss Hall. “Someone could have been badly hurt.”
She said officers seized a computer belonging to Ma, which listed thousands of customers across the world. Miss Hall said the incident came after trading standards officers in Suffolk had previously warned Ma about selling unsafe electricals in a separate incident.
Rob Bimpson, defending, said Ma, 26, of Mariner Avenue, Edgbaston, was not selling the items but instead posting them on behalf of a wholesaler in China.
“When consumers buy them the money goes direct to the people in China, my client only gets around 40p per item for packaging and posting them,” he said. “He offers his unreserved apologies.”
He said Ma came to the UK from China five years ago and studied a degree in finance and accounting at Aston University before setting up his business.
“He is expecting to get an entrepreneur’s visa in the near future and wants to stay in the UK to help the economy,” added Mr Bimpson.
Ma pleaded guilty to 25 charges of breaching the Consumer Protection Act and was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £2,500 costs, as well as £15 victim surcharge.