Christmas Safety Advent Calendar

Journal of Trading Standards is working with CTSI and the Office for Product Safety and Standards to bring you 25 festive messages about Christmas safety – making sure the toys and gifts you buy this year offer the right kind of surprise to your loved ones. Check back each day for advice


1st December

Stay savvy this Christmas

When shopping this Christmas, you need to follow some key points to ensure you remain on guard against buying unsafe products and to make sure you’re not being scammed.

Look out for the four Ps to avoid counterfeit goods:

PRODUCT – How do you know the item you are about to buy is safe to use?

PRICE – Is the product in the price range you would expect to pay for an item of this quality, or is it likely to be an imitation of the ‘real thing’? Remember to keep any receipts when you buy the product and the instructions for its use.

PLACE – Is the vendor reputable? Do they have a base in the UK or the EU?

PACKAGING – Does the packaging give details of the name and address of the vendor and any information about any limitations on its use?

Robert Chantry-Price, joint lead officer for product safety at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute advises: “First, if you are buying toys or electrical products, check that they are CE marked. If the product is priced below the amount you would expect to pay for the item, is it really a bargain or are you being offered a product that is unlikely to be safe? When you first use the item check that any plugs or transformers attached to the product don’t become hot and so cause a fire.

“Second, all products being placed on the market should be safe to use, but Christmas is the time when novel and innovative products often make their first appearance. These items may contain features which have not been assessed from a safety point of view. It is worth checking, before you part with your hard-earned cash, that the product really is safe. Bear in mind that some items may present a hazard when used by young children or the elderly as they may be unfamiliar with the technology or the novel features on the product.

“Thirdly, products being sold via the internet by vendors based overseas may not be compliant with the safety requirements in the UK. Make sure that you are buying from a reputable supplier. Does the website give his name and address? Does it specify to which safety standards the product conforms and how will you get your money back if it turns out to be unsatisfactory or unsafe? If you are buying from outside the EU this may present a serious problem.”

Find out more

2nd December

Christmas Advertising

Is your advert suitable for children?

Strict rules exist around certain ads for age-restricted products being targeted at children.

As well as being appropriately targeted (not appearing in media where children or young people make up more than 25% of the audience), they must be socially responsible and not contain content likely to be of particular appeal to children.

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3rd December

Dangerous teddies

More than 1,000 teddy bear toys from an unnamed Chinese importer have been detained and destroyed by trading standards in Suffolk. The bears, which were destined for a warehouse in Coventry to eventually be sold online, were deemed unsafe for several reasons. A ribbon on each of the toy bears posed a potential strangulation risk for children, while the zip offered easy access to the stuffing inside.

Find out more

4th December

Christmas cards

Shoppers are reminded of the benefits of paying for their Christmas presents on credit cards. If a purchase costs more than £100, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 makes the credit card supplier equally liable for any breach of contract on the part of the seller.

In other words, if you have been mis-sold a Christmas present, or if an item fails to match its description, you can seek compensation from the credit card company.

5th December

Beware button cells

Button batteries can kill a child if accidentally swallowed, says the Office for Product Safety and Standards (Office). Guidance issued by the Office follows a report published by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) in summer 2019 after the death of a three-year-old girl last year when she swallowed a 23mm button battery.

The Office urges parents and childcare providers to take extreme caution with children using any electronic devices containing button batteries, and seek immediate medical attention if a child accidentally swallows one.

These batteries, also known as coin cell batteries, can become lodged in a child’s throat, and a chemical reaction can occur which could burn away tissue within just two hours.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) worked with the Office earlier this year on a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers related to button batteries.

The simple steps to help protect children from the risks posed by button batteries are:

1. Store spare batteries securely and out of children’s reach. Don’t leave them loose in drawers or on surfaces

2. Be careful when opening multi-packs of button batteries in case they fall on the floor

3. Know which toys and gadgets use button batteries. This includes everyday items such as: robot bug or fish toys, fidget spinners with LED lights, slim remote controls, car key fobs, calculators, scales, gaming headsets, watches, hearing aids, nightlights and novelty items like singing Santa models

4. Check your home for things powered by button batteries. If the battery compartment isn’t secured by a screw, move the item out of reach of small children. If it’s faulty, get it fixed or get rid of it safely. You can also report faulty toys to trading standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline

5. Teach older children why button batteries are dangerous and why they shouldn’t give them to young children

Find out more

6th December

Competition Time!

Each Friday we’ll be giving you the chance to win a toy and cut down your seasonal shopping list. This week we’re giving you the opportunity to win your very own Washimals – adorable, colourable and washable pet figures that kids can customise using the coloured pens to create their own favourite characters.


To enter the competition, like or retweet this Tweet from @CTSI_UK and follow instructions.

Good luck, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for another great chance to win!

7th December

Gifts that stink

Hundreds of bottles of dangerous fake perfume, labelled as designer items, were seized in a raid by trading standards in Birmingham recently. It was the result of an ongoing operation involving the online trade of counterfeit goods including clothing, footwear and perfumes.

These fragrances contain high levels of chemicals that can cause nasty reactions when sprayed onto the skin. Not only that, but the substances are flammable, making them dangerous for consumers to have in their homes.

Find out more

8th December

Christmas overload

If you’re buying Christmas toys or other products that need to be plugged in, don’t overload your electrical sockets at home.

Most people have extension leads in their homes, using four-way bar adaptors to increase the number of appliances that they can plug into a wall socket. However, although there is space to plug in four appliances, this does not mean it is always safe to do so.

You can avoid overloading sockets and risk of fire by using Electrical Safety First’s ‘socket calculator’.

Access it here

9th December

Play responsibly

If you’re a business, it is your responsibility to make sure that the new toys you supply to consumers are safe. Check out Business Companion if you are a business in England, Scotland or Wales, to find out what the legal requirements of The Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011 are.

Read more

10th December

Novelties, not toys

Christmas decorations and novelties come in all shapes and sizes, and many of them look like toys and are attractive to children.

But they don’t adhere to the same safety standards as toys, and so should not be given to children to play with. These are particularly dangerous to children under 36 months. Check out RoSPA’s Christmas novelty advice:

Read more

11th December

Christmas Social

If you buy something with a credit card this Christmas that costs between £100 and £30,000, the credit provider may be equally responsible (along with the seller) for resolving any problems that arise.

This is legal free protection provided when you buy goods or services with credit cards (including store credit cards) and finance agreements (for items such as cars and household goods).

It’s worth noting:

1. the goods must be priced at over £100 but under £30,000

2. it applies when you’ve paid the trader direct, creating what’s known as a three-party arrangement

3. the full amount doesn’t need to be paid on the credit card

That’s extra protection when paying with a credit card – but remember, you’ve still got to pay it back!

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12th December

Buy safe to be safe

Whatever the deal, whatever the temptation, don’t buy from unauthorised traders and don’t borrow from unauthorised lenders. Initial savings and convenience may prove to be a false economy.

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13th December

Competition Time!

Friday 13th. Unlucky for some.

But not for one fortunate soul who will be taking away a Fingerlings Hugs Light Up Lion Cub!

You can swing them, pet them, and rock them to sleep, or give them a kiss and watch them kiss you back! They’ll record what you say and repeat it back in funny ways for hours of Christmas fun!


To enter the competition, like or retweet this Tweet from @CTSI_UK and follow instructions.

Good luck, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for another great chance to win!

14th December

Digging deep comes at a cost

Very few consumers have endlessly deep pockets at Christmas. If you are tempted to buy presents on credit this Christmas, do your own credit checks. If you are going to use a credit card, shop around and compare terms. Some cards charge higher interest rates but provide interest-free periods or discounts.

Remember to budget for all of these costs and put the payment dates in your diary. Remember that you’ve still got to pay it all back in the New Year.

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15th December

Know your online shopping rights

Many people shopping online within the EU may not fully understand what rights they have for online purchases, or what rules traders need to follow.

New consumer rights came into force on 13 June 2014, with the Consumer Contracts Regulations replacing old rules. Consumers now have a 14 calendar day cooling-off period, starting as soon as an order is placed and ending 14 days after the goods are received.

During this time the contract can be cancelled for any reason, including a change of mind.

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16th December

What’s inside your Christmas cracker?

Waitrose and John Lewis have taken the lead in banning plastic toys from Christmas crackers. They are to stop the practise from 2020 as part of plans to cut down on single-use plastic.

Instead crackers will be filled with toys made from recyclable materials and will not use plastic glitter.

Several other retailers are also cutting the amount of plastic in their Christmas ranges.

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17th December

On the frontline

Tackling dangerous products before they can get into the hands of unsuspecting consumers is an extremely challenging yet vital part of trading standards’ work.

Items intercepted by the Thurrock Trading Standards Port Team last year include dangerous toys, life-endangering carcinogenic face creams and fire-risk hairdryers. In the last quarter of 2018 alone, the team confiscated more than 88,000 unsafe products that could have caused serious harm to UK families.

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18th December

Facebook fakes

Trading standards officers in Scotland have reported a growing market in sales of counterfeit goods on social media platforms such as Facebook and online marketplaces including Gumtree.

Once the traders are identified following consumer complaints or routine monitoring by officers, powers to shut down online operations can be used to disrupt these activities.

However, Electrical Safety First (ESF) has reported that 30% of consumers buy electrical fakes including electric hair dryers and straighteners from online marketplaces. ESF also found that 98% of counterfeit phone chargers tested were extremely dangerous.

Find Out More

19th December

Cross-border crises

If you have bought a product from a trader based in the EU which proves to be faulty, contact the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) for free help and advice.

Andy Allen, Service Director at the UK ECC, says: “It’s undeniably true that not everyone is as reliable as Santa! Christmas can be a busy and stressful time and if consumers are unlucky, they can find themselves indulging in an unwanted and unhealthy portion of gift-stress in the lead-up to and on Christmas day itself.”

If you’ve bought a product from a UK trader that causes problems, you can get in touch with the Citizens Advice consumer service. They’ll be able to give you practical and impartial advice on how to resolve your consumer problem and pass information about complaints on to trading standards.

Find Out More

20th December

Competition Time!

Each Friday we’ll be giving you the chance to win a toy and cut down your seasonal shopping list. As the new Jumanji movie hist the screens, we’re giving you the chance to experience talking lions, charging rhinos, snapping crocodiles, and other dangerous creatures from the comfort of your own home with this fantastic Jumanji board game.*


To enter the competition, like or retweet this Tweet from @CTSI_UK and follow instructions.

Good luck, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for another great chance to win!

* Not suitable for children under the age of 3 years due to small parts which could cause a choking hazard.

21st December

Spotlight on safety

Dangerous Christmas lights were found online by West Sussex trading standards, who are urging people to only buy recognised brands from known UK sellers.

An investigation by West Sussex Trading Standards revealed that four types of lights bought from a popular online marketplace website failed safety tests. Three posed a serious risk of electrocution.

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22nd December

Playful dozen

Sloths, elephants and a booty-shaking llama are said to be among the top 12 must-have toys this Christmas.

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23rd December

Festive safety at home

Home should be somewhere where we all feel safe. But with all the excitement of Christmas, it can be easy to forget some straightforward tips about safety in the home.

Robert Chantry-Price, CTSI Joint Lead Officer for Product Safety, has these tips:

1. Ensure that your Christmas tree lights are safe from an electrical point of view and that they don’t overheat

2. Take care that candles can’t cause a fire (i.e. that they don’t present a fire hazard when they are lit and that they are extinguished whenever the room is left unoccupied)

3. Make sure that spark guards or fireguards are used if you light any open fires

24th December

Christmas under control

Whether you’re baking mince pies, peeling sprouts or doing some last-minute wrapping it can be hard to keep an eye on kids over Christmas. If you have proper parental controls set up you can feel confident they aren’t doing or seeing anything they shouldn’t while you’re busy with festivities.

Good Housekeeping has a produced a helpful guide with everything you need to know to keep your kids protected:

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25th December

Season’s Greetings

Happy Christmas