Illegal weapons ‘for sale’ on Amazon and eBay

Illegal weapons are being sold by third-party sellers on Amazon, eBay, Wish, and AliExpress, a Which? investigation has found.

The consumer organisation said that it carried out simple searches for banned weapons, including zombie and flick knives, knuckle dusters, swords and batons, finding one or more of the items on each online marketplace, with some on sale for as little as 49p.

On each of the platforms, additional banned weapons were recommended by the platforms’ algorithms after Which?’s initial searches for weapons.

The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 states that none of these weapons should be available for sale in the country and cannot be owned in a private home. A person caught with one of these weapons could face arrest and a prison sentence.

On Amazon, Which? found more than 12 listings for friction lock batons masquerading as trekking poles. It said that some of the listings used special characters in their title, presumably to avoid detection by the e-commerce giant.

Experts at Which? found a variety of illegal swords on eBay, including zombie knives, and knuckle dusters, including a 23-inch steel serrated-edged zombie knife for £27 and a 27-inch zombie blade with a red fire design selling for £32.
One seller was offering a combo deal on a karambit blade and a ‘paralysing spray’ for £13.99.

eBay's terms and conditions say that none of these weapons should be for sale on its platform.

Which? said that it found the widest selection of weapons for sale on AliExpress and Wish. Simple searches of the terms ‘flick knife’, ‘automatic opening knife’ and ‘spring assisted knives’ returned dozens of results on each site, with many of the weapons priced at less than £10 and some marketed for self-defence.

“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,” said Sue Davies, Which? head of consumer protection policy. “This raises big question marks over the checks and monitoring being done by these platforms.”

Amazon, eBay, and Wish said they had removed all the listings reported to them by Which?.

Amazon told the organisation it would take appropriate enforcement against the baton sellers.

“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," said an Amazon spokesperson. "We are disappointed when bad actors evade our systems and we will use these learnings to improve our prevention mechanisms."

eBay said it was investigating why the items weren't blocked to UK buyers, while Wish said it was exploring remedial action against any offending merchants.

AliExpress said it had removed the listings but Which? has received two further promotional emails from the company since its initial response – one offering a ‘self defence’ flick knife for £2.83.

"We have strict guidelines for merchants regarding the sale of knives," said AliExpress. "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."

It continued: “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."

Wish said that it condemns the listing or sale of illegal weapons on its UK platform and that it is carrying out an urgent review of its processes.

Retail Systems has approached eBay for further comment.

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