Fires due to electrical faults increase 29% over three years

November 12, 2015
  • Proportion of fires caused by electrical faults has increased by 29% over last three years 
  • Electrical faults now account for 23% of all fire claims 
  • Damage to household contents caused by fires worth £4,000 on average

The proportion of fire claims caused by electrical faults has jumped by 29% in the last three years, now accounting for almost a quarter (23%) of overall fire claims, according to figures from Co-op Insurance.* 

Claims analysts at the insurer say that in addition to some of the more traditional causes for electrical faults such as tumble dryers and washing machines, other common culprits for these type of fires include electric blankets, in addition to smaller appliances which require chargers such as e-cigarettes and mobile phones.   

The amount of technology people have in their homes has vastly increased over recent years, with 1.8 million mobile phone chargers being bought online in the UK each year  and  an estimated 2.6million people now using e-cigarettes in Great Britain.  This number has tripled from 700,000 in 2012.**

According to the insurer, the cost of fire damage which can be caused by trying to make short cuts is much more costly in the long-run, and in tragic circumstances can sadly result in loss of life.  On average, Co-op Insurance pays out £14,000 for a fire claim under a buildings insurance policy.  Damage to contents caused by fire is worth on average £4,000 and a large loss fire can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Co-op Insurance is warning home owners to make sure they buy electrical goods from reputable sources and to check that any chargers used are compatible for their device by following the manufacturer’s guidelines.  As larger appliances such as washing machines are high powered, people are also being advised to use one plug per socket and not to overload extension cables with multiple appliances. 

Jonathan Guy, Head of Claims at Co-op Insurance, says:

“Over the last few years we have seen a surge in fire claims caused by electrical faults, but also a rise in large fire claims as a result of these. Sadly, when it comes to fires, tragic circumstances could often be avoided by following some simple precautionary steps to protect you and your family.

“Fires in homes are among the most costly claims to deal with, as in addition to cosmetic repairs, structural damage to the property may also need to be fixed. If your home becomes uninhabitable as a result of the fire, you may require alternative accommodation, therefore it is important to speak to your insurer and make sure you have the right level of cover in place.”

Lewis Ramsay, the Chief Fire Officers Association’s Director of Prevention, Protection, and Road Safety, said:

“Electrical fires in the home can be devastating; causing both large amounts of damage to homes and also destroying personal items which are impossible to replace.  We would recommend you do not leave electrical items on when out of the house, or leave them unattended and don’t over load plug sockets.  In addition, make sure you take a few seconds to regularly test smoke alarms and make sure you have one installed on each level of the home.  Also if you are renting privately, a change in the law means your landlord now needs to provide smoke alarms in your home.

“In the run up to the Christmas period, I would also urge people who are buying electrical goods as gifts to make sure they comply to the correct British Standards to reduce the likelihood of electrical fires.  We are already seeing fires from new – yet increasingly popular - items such as ‘balance boards or hover boards’.  We have seen instances where the chargers are supplied with non-standard plugs, leading to fires, which cause thousands of pounds worth of damage.”

Co-op Insurance’s top tips for reducing fire risks in the home:

  • Don’t leave appliances charging unsupervised for long periods of time
  • Use official/original chargers and electrical cables
  • Purchase electrical items from a reputable source and check it has a British or European safety mark when buying it
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the device
  • Don’t charge a battery that looks like it could have been damaged or dropped
  • Don’t cover items when you are charging them as they emit heat
  • Don’t leave large household appliances e.g. washing machines or tumble dryers on when you leave the house or overnight
  • Make sure you have a smoke alarm fitted in the home and regularly check it to make sure it works

Based on Co-op Insurance’s claims data, the top five regions for fire claims are:

  1. Midlands
  2. East Anglia
  3. North West
  4. North East
  5. Scotland

Notes to editors

*Fire claims analysis from The Co-operative Insurance (2009-2014)
** Mobile phone charger figures according to Electrical Safety First. http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/guides-and-advice/electrical-items/chargers/

E-cigarette figures according to ASH (More than 12,000 people across the UK surveyed by YouGov on behalf of ASH)
http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_891.pdf

E-cigarettes were introduced to the European Union in 2005.

About The Co-operative Group

The Co-operative Group, one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, with interests across food, funerals, insurance, electrical and legal services, has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-operative Group operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of approximately £10 billion.

For further information contact:

Alex Wilson
Press & Media Relations Manager
The Co-operative Group
0161 767 4281/07540 641368