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​Warning over faulty USB chargers after woman electrocuted

Consumers are being warned to stop using non-approved USB chargers after a faulty device was implicated in the death of an Australian woman.

USB chargers have been implicated in the death of a woman. Department of Fair Trading

One of Australia's leading consumer watchdogs has joined with police to issue a warning about faulty USB chargers after one of these chargers was implicated in the death of a woman from Sydney, Australia.

The death follows a similar incident last year in which a Chinese woman was allegedly electrocuted after answering a call on an iPhone plugged into a third-party charger. Apple later used its Chinese website to warn customers to stay away from non-approved charging devices.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Sydney woman whose death is being associated with a faulty USB charger was found wearing headphones and holding her laptop "with burns on her ears and chest, in an apparent electrocution".

In a statement on the issue, the New South Wales Department of Fair Trading said investigators recently descended on a mobile accessories store in Sydney's south west to remove a number of "unapproved and non-compliant USB style chargers, travel adaptors and power boards". The products did not have any approval markings or requisite insulation on the charging pins -- features that are regulated by Australian Standards.

The retailer now faces prosecution and up to two years imprisonment -- the Department also confirmed that the offence carries maximum fines of AU$87,500 for individuals and AU$875,000 for corporations.

Speaking about the faulty chargers, Fair Trading commissioner Rod Stowe said the use of cheap and poorly-made electrical devices can prove to be fatal.

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

The Department of Fair Trading warns that consumers "must avoid" non-approved electrical accessories and that retailers should not be selling them.

"The unapproved devices do not meet the essential safety requirements of Australian standards and are often made of inferior plastics and other insulation materials.

"Consumers in possession of unapproved and non-compliant USB style chargers, typically used to charge phones and tablets, should bend the pins on the chargers and dispose of them immediately."