With the coronavirus pandemic keeping many people away from the high street, Christmas toy-hunters will be relying even more on online shopping.
As shoppers scour the web for Black Friday and Christmas deals, Trading Standards officers are warning about the dangers of unsafe toys being sold by third-party sellers on online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.
The British Toy and Hobby Association has conducted research into the safety of toys sold online, testing 100 toys bought through online marketplaces. They found that 60 per cent of the toys tested had safety failures and 86 per cent were actually illegal to sell in the UK.
This is an increase on the previous year’s results, which found that 22 per cent of the toys tested were unsafe and 58 per cent weren’t compliant with legislation.
Some of the unsafe toys were found to have small parts that could be choking hazard to under-3s, as well as small button batteries that could be easily removed and would cause serious complications if swallowed.
Joanne Hocking, from Lincolnshire Trading Standards, said: “The temporary closure of toy shops across the country has pushed more parents online than ever before to get toys in time for Christmas.
“Amazon and eBay are huge names in the world of online shopping, but third party sellers operate through these sites and this is where shoppers can come unstuck and end up buying counterfeit or unsafe products.
“When buying through one of these marketplace websites, be sure to check the reviews for third party sellers, make sure the price isn’t wildly different from what you’d expect, and always check over the toy when it arrives before you give it to your children.”
The Trading Standards team issue the following advice. No one wants to take a risk with toy safety, so always bear in mind these 10 tips when buying for children:
1. Look for the ‘CE’ symbol: this means the manufacturer has assessed the toy for safety. Find the symbol on the label or box.
2. Check that it is suitable for children: some other festive novelties and decorations can look like toys.
3. Reputation matters: look for suppliers who have a good reputation for safe and reliable toys. They will have good safety standards and refund policies.
4. Button battery safety: Christmas toys may have button batteries - which can prove lethal if ingested. Check they are screwed in safely before giving to a child.
5. Check age restrictions: toys must be clearly marked with age restrictions, which assess risks such as choking hazards. Always follow the age recommendations.
6. Consider additional needs: remember that children with additional needs might be more vulnerable, and make sure you shop accordingly.
7. Choking hazards: avoid toys with small parts or loose fabric – they can be choking hazards.
8. Inspect well-loved toys: wear and tear can make a toy unsafe. Check your children’s toys and get them repaired if necessary.
9. Supervise when you need to: some toys need an adult on hand during playtime. Read all the instructions so you can keep things under control.
Tidy up packaging: boxes, plastic bags and wire can be a hazard. Clear away all packaging once everything’s unwrapped.
Currently, online marketplaces are not responsible for checking the safety of a toy in the same way that reputable toymakers, importers and shops based in the UK are. The British Toy and Hobby Association is calling for a review of the current law to ensure that online marketplaces are accountable for the products sold through their site.
Anyone needing advice about something they have bought can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer.