Why You Need To Be Careful About The Toys You Buy Online

Buying toys from marketplaces? Do these safety checks first.

Buying things second-hand is not only cost-effective, but also better for the environment. Children’s toys especially can be repackaged and passed down once kids are through playing with them.

It’s why online marketplaces are so popular among parents. As well as purchasing from fellow parents, you can usually also find cheap deals from other third-party sellers using the platforms.

However, some toys sold in this way may not be in a safe condition.

According to a new report by the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA), nearly half of the toys bought via third-party sellers are unsafe. Researchers found that potential gifts could choke, strangle, burn, poison and electrocute children.

The BTHA tested 225 randomly selected toys bought via Amazon, eBay, AliExpress and Wish, and found 88% were illegal and 48% were unsafe for a child to play with.

The BTHA is now calling for changes to the law to increase regulation and has launched a petition to get the government’s attention.

At the moment, there are no laws stipulating that companies have to check the safety of products that third parties are offering. And with many sellers outside of the UK, it’s harder to regulate.

Not all the toys bought online are safe.
Yulia Naumenko via Getty Images
Not all the toys bought online are safe.

How to check your children’s toys are safe:

For parents on a budget, ditching marketplaces entirely may not be an option and many of us also opt to use them for their greener credentials. But before you give a new purchase to your child, there are some safety checks you should make.

Natasha Crookes, director of public affairs for the BTHA, tells Huffpost these are:

  • Check it has an EU address.

  • Check it has a CE mark.

  • Check the age labelling is appropriate for the age of the child that it is for, as we found in our study small parts that could be a choking hazard for young children that were incorrectly labelled as not suitable for under three years.

  • Check it has relevant warnings (e.g. toys not for babies should state “not suitable for under 3’s” (or the equivalent symbol).

  • Packaging generally – does it look genuine, is the print correct, are warnings and labels in the correct language, etc?

  • Many illegal toys we purchased were delivered without any packaging or information at all which means there is no address to contact and no warnings that may be critical for safe play.

  • If any of these cause doubt or are missing, it is more likely that the toy is at risk of being illegal or unsafe, we would recommend you return it.

“It is not acceptable that unsafe and non-compliant toys are simply allowed to enter the UK market, putting children at risk of serious harm,” Crookes added.

“We believe the government has to step in to legislate this wild-west of safety and we must see politicians from all sides of the House coming together to protect children as part of the UK review of the product safety framework in 2021.”

What do the marketplaces say?

A spokesperson for AliExpress told Huffpost: “AliExpress takes very seriously the safety of all our customers and we work hard to ensure a safe shopping environment.

“We are investigating the items identified by The British Toy and Hobby Association Report and we will take appropriate action in accordance with our platform rules, including where applicable removal of products and penalising sellers found to be violating our platform rules and regulations.”

A statement from Amazon said: “Safety is important to Amazon and we are investigating the products in question as a matter of urgency.

“We require all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations and we have proactive measures in place to prevent suspicious or non-compliant products from being listed.”

A spokesperson for Wish told Sky News: “All merchants trading on our platform undergo certain checks before being permitted to trade. They are also required through our Merchant Policies and Terms of Service to adhere to all applicable product compliance laws and regulations, including local laws and safety standards, wherever their goods are sold.

“Where a product doesn’t meet those standards, it is promptly removed and, where deemed appropriate by Wish, the responsible merchant has their account privileges revoked, faces suspension, or even removal from the platform.”

A spokesperson from eBay said: “We have removed the products identified and have taken appropriate action on the sellers. 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.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to consumer safety, we have filters in places which automatically block listings which are unsafe or do not comply with our policies. These filters blocked millions of unsafe listings from making it onto site.

“Our teams also work around the clock as an additional safety net to manually review and remove anything which may not have been caught by our filters”.