22 per cent of children’s toys sold on Amazon and eBay found to have potentially fatal ‘safety issues’

A new investigation has revealed shocking figures regarding the levels of unsafe toys being sold through online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.
Are you aware of the dangers of buying toys from online retailers? (Photo: Shutterstock)Are you aware of the dangers of buying toys from online retailers? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Are you aware of the dangers of buying toys from online retailers? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Parents should be aware that their children are at risk of “serious injury” and even death, according to the findings.

What did the investigation find?

The British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) conducted an investigation that found that “50 per cent of toys selected for assessment were non-compliant with the toy safety regulations in the UK” and that “22 per cent of the total had serious safety issues.”

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Using a sample test of 200 toys purchased from the largest marketplaces, the BTHA discovered that over half were illegal to sell in the UK as they “failed to comply with safety requirements”, such as:

- Having incorrect labels

- No address to trace back to the original seller

The BTHA said, “Even more worryingly of the 200 toys, 22 per cent had serious safety failures which could cause serious injury or death to a child.”

The BTHA sent the toys to independent laboratories for testing and the results were verified by industry experts, including expert representatives from suppliers, retailers, laboratories and trading standards.

Serious injury or death

The toys that pose a real threat to children had a multitude of safety failings.

They included:

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- Magnets that could be swallowed and choked on, or trap digestive tissue

- A backpack with corded loops which could lead to strangulation

- A superhero cape with high levels of lead

- Products with easily removable button cell batteries - which can cause death by burning through the esophagus

Illegal toys

Toys are one of the most highly regulated product categories for sale in the UK (and across Europe).

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These regulations cover every element of toys, from their design to the chemical composition of the materials it’s made from.

According to the government legislation website, “a manufacturer must not place a toy on the market unless it will comply with the essential safety requirements during its foreseeable and normal period of use”.

These regulations are:

- Designing and manufacturing toys in accordance with essential safety requirements

- Passing safety assessment

- Applicable conformity assessment procedures

- Declaration of conformity and CE marking

- Drawing up of technical documentation

- Information which identifies the toy and its manufacturer

- Instructions for use, safety information and warnings

- Compliance procedures for series production

The BTHA said, “Unscrupulous sellers are happy to undercut prices by making substandard and illegal toys that are put into the hands of children.”

How to fix this epidemic

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Director of Communications for the BTHA, Natasha Crookes, said, “The BTHA has been testing toys on online marketplaces and finding concerning levels of illegal and unsafe toys.”

She said that these results “call for change” and that there are “gaps in the UK regulations which allow the sellers and the marketplaces to not be held to account and for unsafe toys to continue to be available to UK consumers.”

“We call on the government to close that gap before a child is seriously injured or killed by an unsafe toy,” Crookes said.

The actions that the BTHA are calling for are:

- To ensure that unsafe products that the investigation found are removed by the online platforms - from the sellers that had been identified, but also from sellers that continue to sell identical products

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- Have the government define and clarify the roles and expectations of online marketplaces within the scope of existing regulations so that they are held accountable for checking the safety of the products being sold in the UK - where necessary that BTHA says that this should be “by the way of legislative amendment.”

- In the long run, the BTHA calls on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Home Office, to widen their definitions of ‘online harms’ - which is currently under consultation. The BTHA states that the definition should include harm from unsafe products that are sold online to ensure that children are protected “from the behaviour of unscrupulous individuals and companies that hide behind the names of big brand platforms.”

What should I do if I think I have an unsafe toy?

The BTHA says that if you're concerned about a toy that may be in breach of toy safety regulations, you should write a review on the site you purchased from to warn other customers, and contact your local Trading Standards office.

They will take the toy away and carry out the necessary tests, which could result in the toy being recalled.

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You can find your local Trading Standards office using their website and entering your postcode.

How do I avoid buying unsafe toys online?

The BTHA has compiled a list of advice to ensure that you’re not caught out by unsafe or illegal toys being sold online.

These include:

- Be careful of going for the lowest price - if something looks too good to be true, it probably is

- Look at the reviews of who you’re buying from: do they have good reviews? Do they have a UK/EU address listed on the site? Do they have a track record of selling toys? If not, be cautious.

- Research the company before purchasing from them

You can view their full list of advice on this document released by the BTHA.