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GrabOne fined over dangerous bubble machine

Online marketplace GrabOne Limited has been fined $40,000 for selling unsafe bubble machines - which gave at least one person a substantial electric shock.

Auckland woman Sheree Kennedy purchased one of the bubble machines through GrabOne. When she went to use it on December 13 2013 she received an electric shock which threw her backwards and left her with aches in her arm and chest muscles for several days. The bubble machine was plugged in but switched off at the time.

Sheree Kennedy complained to both GrabOne and the wholesaler that supplied the machine, Kmall Limited.[1] GrabOne requested that it be sent back for testing but did not take any steps to withdraw the product or notify customers of the risk until Energy Safety intervened.

An Energy Safety inspection of the bubble machine found a raft of safety issues including:

  • no voltage markings;
  • it was not earthed; and
  • only basic insulation of exposed metal parts


GrabOne pleaded guilty at the North Shore District Court to a charge under the Electricity Act of failing to take action while knowing that there is a reasonable likelihood of serious harm to any person, and a charge under the Electricity (Safety) Regulations of selling an appliance knowing that, or being reckless as to whether, it was electrically unsafe.  The charges were filed against Grabone as a party, meaning that it aided the supplier of the machine, Kmall, to commit the offending.

A spokesperson for WorkSafe New Zealand, Brett Murray, says the bubble machines were anything but the harmless bit of family fun that people buying them would have expected.

“These machines were simply unsafe. They did not provide adequate protection from contact with live parts – and there was little separation between the water used to make bubbles and live electrical components.

"GrabOne sold 439 of these machines over a relatively short period of time (the machines were recalled in February this year following an Energy Safety investigation). GrabOne had a duty to ensure they were safe to use.

"This is the first time an online marketplace has been charged as a party to this type of offending. They are more than just a sales venue and are responsible for the actions of merchants that use them.

“Sheree Kennedy suffered a nasty electric shock, but given the shoddy nature of this product she is lucky it was not far worse. This fine serves as a strong reminder of the importance of checking that products are safe before they go on sale,” says Brett Murray.


NOTE: Energy Safety is responsible for encouraging the safe supply and use of electricity and gas. It is part of the health and safety regulator WorkSafe New Zealand.


[1] Kmall Limited has pleaded not guilty under the Electricity Regulations (regulation 80) to selling an unsafe electrical appliance and for failing to take action while knowing that there is a reasonable likelihood of serious harm to any person (charges under section 163C(1) of the Electricity Act). The case has not yet gone to trial.