Shoppers on the hunt for that must-have toy this Christmas are being urged to be aware of the risks of buying counterfeit toys online.
With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a surge in internet purchases, more stocking-fillers are likely to be bought online this year than ever before. But that convenience can come at a cost, warns the latest Christmas toy safety campaign from the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) and CTSI.
“Unfortunately, with the rise in online shopping, there are unscrupulous persons who will try to sell products that are either counterfeit or unsafe. With more people shopping online, there are more chances for people to get caught out,” says CTSI Service Director, Phil Owen.
Exercising caution and following a few simple steps can make all the difference though. “If the price seems too good to be true, if the toy is a fraction of the cost of what other retailers are selling, it may well be counterfeit,” Owen says. “If you buy a counterfeit, there are no guarantees of the safety of the product. If a reputable trader sells a toy, they will comply with all safety requirements, whereas a business or a person who’s selling counterfeits is just after the money.
“If you’re shopping for toys online, try to use a business that you’ve used before, or is a reputable known brand. The seller should give details of their address on their website and they should be contactable.”
In addition to counterfeit toys, one area of particular concern is button batteries, says Owen. “Lots of toys have got button batteries. If you buy one, make sure the battery compartment is screwed down. Also be wary of things like novelty cards which play Christmas jingles – they’re probably going to have a battery. If you’re out of the room for a few minutes, a toddler could get hold of it, and before you know it they’ve ripped the card apart, picked up the battery and swallowed it. There are still quite a few cases of children going into hospital after swallowing batteries.
“Other things to be aware of are products with small magnets. They also can do a lot of damage in a in a child’s stomach.”
A 2020 study by the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) found that out of 34 toys purchased on Amazon, 10 were illegal and 18 were unsafe. The findings were in addition to a test purchase of 100 toys on the platform in 2019, which revealed that 28 toys were illegal and 18 were unsafe. All of the toys purchased by BTHA were from third-party sellers on the Amazon marketplace. BTHA found similar issues with toys sold on other popular online marketplaces such as eBay and AliExpress.
Natasha Crookes, Director of Public Affairs at the BTHA, said: “Online marketplaces will bring greater convenience and choice to consumers this Christmas. This cannot, however, be at the detriment of safety. The majority of toys for sale this Christmas are safe if you buy your toys from a trusted brand and retailer.”
“This year has been difficult for everyone, and everybody wants to have fun. But the worst thing would be to end the year with a child either being been sick or injured because of harm caused by a dangerous toy,” Owen added.
The campaign advises:
- Always read the warnings and instructions – toys must be clearly marked with age restrictions, which are based on risks such as choking hazards.
- Consider special needs – children with special needs might be more vulnerable, so keep this in mind when shopping.
- Avoid toys with small parts as they can be a choking hazard.
- Look out for strangulation hazards – loose ribbons on toys and costumes can pose risks to young children.
- Check it’s suitable for children – festive novelties can look like toys; keep them away from children.
- Compare the toy’s price with other retailers and sellers – id it’s a fraction of the cost, it’s likely to be counterfeit.
- Check for button batteries – ensure that any button batteries in a toy are safely behind a screwed‑down flap.
- Check if the product you’re buying has been recalled at productrecall.campaign.gov.uk