PARENTS are being warned that cheap unbranded toys from online marketplaces including Amazon and eBay could choke or strangle their kids.
Which? tested 28 toys bought from four sites – also including Wish and AliExpress – against British safety standards and found 12 posed a safety risk after failing one or more tests.
The doctors playset is supposed to be for toddlers but contains lots of unsafe elements and was the worst in the testCredit: which magazine
The most dangerous product was a 51-piece doctor’s playset – described as a toy for a baby or toddler – sold on Wish.
It was filled with unsafe toys and had at least 20 choking hazards.
Most of the toys in the set broke into small and dangerous parts far too easily, including play scissors and a notepad which revealed sharp points.
Which? found 50 safety failures among the 12 toys that failed tests, with ten presenting a choking risk and two a strangulation risk for children.
Which?’s advice on how to spot a dangerous toy
- Is it cheaper than you expected? – If the toy you’re buying is a popular brand and noticeably cheaper than you expected it to be, it might be a counterfeit product. If the price looks too good to be true, alarm bells should start to ring before you buy.
- Look for the CE mark, age-labelling and question what you see – The CE mark should indicate that the toy you’ve bought meets all the legal requirements to be sold in the UK. But, we’ve seen many unsafe products carrying what we believe to be fake CE markings, so if the packaging is poor, the instructions are missing and it feels a bit cheap, there’s a chance that it could be dangerous or a fake. Toys should be marked clearly with the age of the child they are designed for. So, if you buy a toy and find that there’s no age guidance provided, it could prove to be unsafe.
- Look and feel of the toys – Unsafe toys may come without packaging or instructions. So, if the packaging isn’t what you expected or the instructions are missing or minimal, it could be dangerous.
- Play with the toy yourself – Get your hands on the toy and play with it. If it feels a bit lightweight or insubstantial, it might be dangerous.
- Are the batteries fitted securely? – Check that any batteries are screwed in or that removing the battery cover needs two movements to happen at the same time.
- Look for potentially dangerous small parts – Look for small parts that could be a choke hazard for young children or babies. You can buy a tool – a small parts cylinder – to help with this for £5 online. If the parts fit wholly in the small parts cylinder with none poking out of the top, and the toy is for a child under three, this presents a choke hazard and the toy shouldn’t be sold in the UK.
- Watch your child opening and playing with a new toy for the first time – Keep an eye on your child when they are first opening and playing with a toy for the first time to make sure that the toy doesn’t break into a hundred pieces the moment it’s played with.
Two toys either magnets or batteries that could be easily swallowed.
Wish sold five of the products that failed tests – making it the worst offender.
Three were sold on eBay and AliExpress and only one on Amazon Marketplace. These were products sold by third-party sellers rather than Amazon itself.
UK retailers must ensure toys and other products they sell meet safety rules.
The tip of the tablet’s stylus broke off too easily and could be a choking hazardCredit: which magazine
This dog toy may look cute but the choking hazards present are extremely dangerousCredit: which magazine
The magnets in this set were four times as powerful as permittedCredit: which magazine
But online marketplaces have only limited responsibility for this – meaning they repeatedly allow unsafe toys and products to make it onto their sites.
Which? is calling for this to change.
The UK’s product safety regulator, the Office for Product Safety and Standards, is currently reviewing the product safety system, including regulation of online sales.
Sue Davies, Which? head of consumer protection policy, said: ““Consumers should be able to trust that products sold in the UK are safe and meet the standards required.
“Yet a woeful lack of checks and monitoring by online marketplaces means dangerous toys are entering people’s homes.
“It is absolutely crucial that online marketplaces are urgently given greater legal responsibility for the safety of products sold on their sites so that consumers are far better protected from dangerous and illegal items.”
All the four platforms said they take customers’ safety seriously. They say they have rules banning unsafe products and will remove any listings that breach these.
An AliExpress spokesperson said: “After being contacted we took swift action and removed the affected products.”
An Amazon spokesperson said: “We have proactive measures in place to prevent suspicious or non-compliant products from being listed and we monitor the products sold in our stores for product safety concerns.”
An eBay spokesperson said: “We have filters in places which automatically block listings which are unsafe or do not comply with our policies. These blocked six million unsafe listings from making it onto site in 2020.”
A Wish spokesperson said: “All merchants on our platform are required to adhere to local laws and safety standards where their goods are sold. In the rare instance where a product falls foul of those standards, it is promptly removed and, where appropriate, the merchant in question faces a potential suspension from the platform.”
Which? also reached out to the sellers it bought the toys from and offered them the opportunity to comment.
But none of the sellers or the one manufacturer it was able to contact had provided a comment by the time of publication.
Which? has warned before that home teeth whitening kits for sale on Amazon, eBay and Wish “can burn gums” as well.
Face masks sold by Asos, Next and Sports Direct were rated the worst in another Which? safety test.
The consumer group also found that a third of stair gates designed to keep toddlers safe failed crucial tests.