Rogue online sellers abuse parents’ trust

Survey reveals parents at risk of buying unsafe, recalled toys and nursery goods

More than half of parents (54%) mistakenly believe that sellers on online platforms are checking the safety of their products.

74% of parents also wrongly believe that any product aimed at children under 5 has to be fully tested and certified safe by an independent body before it can be sold online, according to new research from the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT).

In reality, if an online seller is based overseas, and sells through an online platform, they can evade their safety responsibilities – even for toys or nursery products.

With mounting financial pressures, parents are increasingly searching online for better prices than in the shops (71%) and inadvertently buying dangerous products from unknown sellers.

Only 13% always check out who the seller is or where they are based. Most rely on customer reviews (87%) or comments on the seller (77%) and trust that safety information online is true (84%).

Recalled toys still being sold

But last year 91 types of toy were recalled because they were dangerous. And a report from the British Toy and Hobby Association found that 90% of a sample of toys from third-party sellers on online marketplaces were unsafe for a child to play with. What’s more, of 101 dangerous toys withdrawn from sale, 65 seemingly identical toys were still on sale a year later.

Despite these findings, 70% of parents never check to see if the product has been recalled and 93% don’t know how to check. That’s why the charity has set up a new advice hub, where parents can check if the toys, nursery goods or child care products they are buying are safe.

Parents told the charity: “I don’t think there’s much to worry about with most toys. So long as play is supervised, what can happen?” and “I have never thought to look for recalled items.”

Putting children at risk

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive, Child Accident Prevention Trust said:

“Rogue online sellers are abusing parents’ trust and putting children at risk. They’re not just selling cheap products that may break more easily. Dangerous products include those with easy-access button batteries that can burn through a child’s food pipe, super-strong magnets that can rip through a child’s gut, overlong cords that can strangle and small parts that can choke a baby.”

“Check who you are buying from and where they are based. Is it a reputable company or brand? Remember, not everything advertised on well-known online platforms is sold by that platform. You may actually be buying from a company you’ve never heard of, that’s based overseas and that’s ignoring UK safety laws. And, before you buy something for your child, do check if it’s dangerous and has been removed from sale.”

John Herriman, Chief Executive at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said:

“Online marketplaces have become a bit of a ‘Wild West’ with third-party sellers who have no regard for what is right and wrong when it comes to protecting consumers from unsafe products.

“This research from the Child Accident Prevention Trust confirms that consumers believe that products available online, especially toys, are subjected to safety testing to ensure they will not cause harm to those we care about most. Sadly, as we know, third-party sellers are currently unregulated and not subject to the same product safety regulations and procedures that honest retailers ensure are in place, so consumers know the products they buy are safe.

“CTSI, along with other consumer protection organisations, is calling for the release of the Government’s Product Safety Review which is urgently needed to start the process of putting legislation in place to close loopholes that rogue online sellers are exploiting every single day.”

Three tips for swerving rogue online sellers

1. Who are you buying from?

  • The online store of a high street chain?
  • The website of a big-name brand?
  • A company you’ve never heard of?

2. Where is the seller based?

  • Here in the UK?
  • Elsewhere in Europe?
  • Overseas, where UK safety standards can’t be enforced?

3. Has the product been recalled?

  • Check our toy recalls list for the latest children’s products that are so dangerous they’ve been withdrawn from sale.
  • Or visit GOV.UK to see if problems have been spotted with something you’re thinking of buying.
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