Illegal weapons are being sold by third-party sellers on popular online marketplaces including AliExpress, Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wish, according to a Which? investigation.
The consumer group found banned offensive weapons such as zombie and flick knives, knuckle dusters, swords and batons on sale on the sites for as little as 49p.
Under UK laws, the weapons should not be available for sale in the UK and cannot even be owned in a private home. If a person were to be caught with one of these products, they could face arrest and a prison sentence.
Searching on Amazon, Which? found more than a dozen listings for friction lock batons masquerading as ‘trekking poles’. It is illegal to buy and to sell these batons in the UK.
Some of the listings Which? found used special characters, such as ‘bătõň’, in the title, or the word only being used in the artwork – presumably to avoid detection by Amazon.
On eBay, Which? found a variety of illegal swords, zombie knives and knuckle dusters, including a 23-inch steel serrated-edged zombie knife (£27) and a 27-inch zombie blade with a red fire design (£32).
One seller was offering a combo deal on a karambit blade and a ‘paralysing spray’ for £13.99.
Which? found the widest selection of weapons for sale on AliExpress and Wish – with simple searches of the terms ‘flick knife’, ‘automatic opening knife’ and ‘spring assisted knives’ returning dozens of results on each, many priced at less than £10 and some even marketed for self-defence.
Which? was able to find a large number of flick knives and at least a dozen butterfly knives – blades that open out into a point – on Wish, even though they are illegal.
Researchers also found several belt buckle knives priced from £8, a selection of knuckle dusters and a number of concealed blades – including a £1 knife designed to be hidden inside a wallet.
Other items included friction lock batons, one of which was disguised within an umbrella and another which was marketed for use in self-defence and had in excess of 30 UK reviews.
On AliExpress, Which? found a large number of flick knives, hidden blades, and a raft of ‘self-defence rings’ designed to be worn as knuckle dusters – one priced at just 49p.
On all four platforms, additional banned weapons were recommended by the platforms’ algorithms after Which?’s initial searches.
Which? head of consumer protection policy Sue Davies said: “It is disturbing that our latest investigation has uncovered illegal weapons being sold on online marketplaces at extraordinarily cheap prices and that these tech firms are also pushing additional dangerous items to people. This raises a big question marks over the checks and monitoring being done by these platforms.
“It’s clear that online marketplaces need to take more responsibility and prevent illegal weapons appearing on their sites.”
An eBay spokesman said: “eBay UK prohibits the sale of the vast majority of knives, with the exception of letter openers, certain tools and dining cutlery. Sellers must comply with our policies as well as any applicable laws and regulations when selling knives. As an international marketplace our policies vary across the world and some of the listings highlighted by Which? are permitted under US policy and sold by US registered sellers. UK buyers are blocked from purchasing these knives. We are investigating why this block did not take place in this instance.
“eBay takes the safety of its customers very seriously. We enforce our Product Safety Policy using block filter algorithms that aim to prevent unsafe products being listed on site in the first place and the eBay Security Team perform additional checks to identify listings that do not comply with our policies and takes enforcement action against sellers. This could include removing listings, selling restrictions or account suspensions.”
The Alibaba Group, which includes AliExpress, said: “The safety of our customers is our highest priority. We have strict guidelines for merchants regarding the sale of knives. In addition to this, customers must verify that they are over the age of 18 in order to be able to purchase knives on our platform.
“We have removed the items highlighted by Which?’s investigation and are reviewing the accounts of any third-party merchants who might have breached our platform rules. We thank Which? for bringing to our attention the category of ‘self-defence’ rings. We are investigating this and will continue to keep an eye on it. We regularly assess our practices to improve them.”
An Amazon spokesman said: “We require all products to comply with applicable laws and have developed industry-leading tools to prevent non-compliant products from being listed in our stores. We are disappointed when bad actors evade our systems and we will use these learnings to improve our prevention mechanisms. These products have now been removed from the store and we are taking appropriate enforcement against the bad actors in question.”
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