Nearly half the toys purchased from third-party sellers on online marketplaces were dangerous, according to an investigation by an industry body that warns of a “wild west of safety”.
The research by the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) identified toys that could choke, burn or even poison a child being sold on major sites including Amazon and eBay.
Out of a random sample of 255 toys 48% were unsafe for a child to play with, with the BTHA, which represents UK-based toy manufacturers, describing the findings as “deeply disturbing”.
Unlike with high street stores, there is no legal requirement for online marketplaces to check the safety of the products other sellers list on their site. This gap in the law was recently raised by MPs on the public accounts committee who argued the country’s product safety regime was not up to the job as shopping moves online.
The harmful products identified by the researchers included interactive baby dolls being sold on eBay that contained a restricted chemical, and a remote control helicopter on Amazon that broke easily, exposing button cell batteries that are extremely dangerous when swallowed.
The BHTA is calling for legal reform so that online marketplaces are held accountable for the products sold via their sites. It also wants more vetting by platforms of sellers and products before products go on sale.
Its campaign is being fronted by Sam McCarthy, the mother of three-year-old Rebecca, who almost died after swallowing brightly coloured magnets bought from a third-party seller on eBay that she mistook for sweets.
Natasha Crookes, the BTHA’s director of public affairs, said the government needed to step in to “legislate this wild west of safety”. “We must see politicians from all sides of the house coming together to protect children,” she said.
Until recently product safety rules were enforced by Trading Standards officers, but issues with household appliances as well as changes resulting from Brexit resulted in the creation of the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) in 2018.
Ebay said it had filters in place that automatically blocked listings that were unsafe and also had staff that manually reviewed and removed listings. “We continue to work closely with authorities including Trading Standards and OPSS to help ensure sellers and listings on eBay comply with laws and regulations,” the company said.
Amazon said all products sold in its store had to comply with applicable laws and regulations in that country and that it had proactive measures in place to prevent suspicious or noncompliant products from being listed.