Blood-oxygen tests that falsely claimed to be ‘NHS-approved’ have been removed from Amazon, eBay and Wish following an investigation by a consumer watchdog.
Pulse oximeters became popular during the pandemic among Covid patients and people recovering from the virus to monitor their oxygen levels.
But an investigation by Which? found 11 out of 15 devices it looked at on the sites failed to meet UK medical requirements.
Some did not have correct CE marks — proving they were checked by medical professionals — or lacked them entirely.
Many of the devices, which cost as little as 99p, claimed to be NHS approved or used the health service’s logo on their packaging.
Amazon, eBay and Wish removed the devices from their websites after being contacted by Which?.
But the consumer watchdog said it ‘was not good enough’ and called for tougher laws to stop online companies marketing these products.
Pulse oximeters became popular during the pandemic among Covid patients and people recovering from the virus for monitoring their blood oxygen levels. But a Which? investigation found 11 out of 15 devices sold by online retailers failed to meet UK requirements (above)
Pictured above is the UK Fingertip Pulse Oximeter sold on eBay that failed to meet regulations. It carried labels saying it was ‘NHS-approved’, but health bosses pointed out that the health service does not approve any medical products for sale in the UK
Another device that fell foul of regulations was the Bee Smart pulse oximeter sold on Amazon. This too did not have the correct CE mark, required for all medical products sold in the UK, and also claimed to be ‘NHS approved’
Pulse oximeters work by being clipped onto someone’s finger and shining red and infrared light through the body to measure oxygen levels in the blood.
Blood containing lots of oxygen absorbs more infrared light and lets more red light pass through it. Blood without enough does the opposite.
The NHS currently offers them to over-65s and vulnerable patients who have tested positive for Covid but are not so sick they need hospital care.
Which devices were investigated by Which?
The following devices were the 11 found not to meet UK medical requirements for selling:
- Bee Smart Pulse Oximeter, £12.99, bought from Amazon. Failed to meet required CE standards. Claimed to be ‘NHS approved’.
- Kamrose Pulse Oximeter, £7.99, bought from Amazon. Failed to meet required CE standards.
- Tanness Finger Pulse Oximeter, £5.99, bought from Amazon. Failed to meet required CE standards.
- UK Fingertip Pulse Oximeter, £0.99, bought from eBay. Failed to meet required CE standards. Claimed to be ‘NHS approved’.
- Unbranded finger pulse oximeter, £4.66, bought from Wish. Failed to meet required CE standards.
- M260 Nail Pulse oximeter, £5, bought from Wish. Failed to meet required CE standards.
- OEM Pulse oximeter, bought from eBay. Removed by seller during investigation. Failed to meet CE standards.
- Unbranded fingertip pulse oximeter, bought from eBay. Removed during investigation. Failed to meet required CE standards.
- Unbranded pulse oximeters (x3), bought from Wish. Removed during investigation. Failed to meet required safety standards.
Which? looked at 15 devices as part of the investigation in January, at the height of the Omicron wave.
All devices passed accuracy tests for measuring oxygen levels in the blood, Which? said.
But 10 out of 15 had improper CE marks, while another had no mark at all.
These are legally required for medical devices to be sold in the UK.
A number of devices sold on Amazon and eBay also carried claims they were ‘NHS-approved’.
One of the devices which failed to meet UK requirements was the Kamrose Pulse Oximeter, sold on Amazon.
The £7.99 device had a 4.5 star rating out of 694 reviews and could be ordered for next-day delivery on Prime.
The Bee Smart Oximeter which was rated four stars from 64 reviews similarly did not meet requirements.
It was sold on Amazon for £12.99 and available via Prime.
A listing for the 99p UK Fingertip Pulse Oximeter on eBay showed it had been sold five times in the last 24 hours.
Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?, said it was ‘very concerning’ that devices without necessary markings and ‘brazenly’ claiming to be NHS approved were being sold in the UK.
She said: ‘Which? believes the Government needs to do more to protect consumers from a lack of effective safeguards when they are shopping online by bringing in tougher regulations for online marketplaces.
‘Consumers should be wary of cheap oximeters sold online.’
After concluding their investigation, Which? received another email from Amazon advertising further medical devices claiming to be ‘NHS-approved’.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘The NHS does not approve or endorse any medical devices, including oximeters.
‘The department strictly controls the NHS identity and takes unauthorised use or adaption of the NHS logo and the letters ‘NHS’ very seriously.
‘Where issues around misuse of the NHS identity and brand are brought to our attention, we actively investigate and will not hesitate to take the necessary action if we find unauthorised use.’
An Amazon spokesperson said it had ‘proactive measures’ in place to prevent suspicious or non-compliant products from being listed.
They added: ‘When appropriate, we remove a product from the store, reach out to sellers, manufacturers, and government agencies for additional information, or take other actions.’
Asked why it was listing products that were claiming to be NHS approved, the spokesperson said: ‘We have removed the products you have flagged and asked for relevant supporting evidence from the sellers for their claims.’
An eBay spokesperson added: ‘We have strict policies in place to regulate the sale of medical devices and have removed the single listing flagged by Which? that did not comply with these policies.
‘However, we are pleased that Which?’s investigation found that the vast majority of products purchased on eBay met the relevant standards for safety and performance.’
On selling ‘NHS-approved’ products, eBay said: ‘These items breach our medical devices policy, which sets out that when listing medical device products on eBay, sellers must comply with labelling requirements that apply to the packaging and Instructions For Use (IFU).
‘We have removed these items from the site.’
Wish said: ‘All of our merchants must comply with local laws whenever selling on our platform, as noted in Wish’s Merchant Terms of Service and Wish Policies.
‘After learning that these two listings were in violation of UK legal standards, which is a violation of our terms and policies, we promptly removed the listings from the platform in accordance with local law.’