Child car seats which are illegal to use in the UK are still available to buy from online marketplaces, according to new Which? research.
The consumer champion has found the dangerous car seats, which are made of fabric and offer almost no protection in the event of a car crash, selling for as little as £8 on websites such as eBay, Amazon and AliExpress.
Many of the car seats are described in listings as being suitable for young children from newborn up to five years old, but the seats quite clearly lack the kind of support needed to protect young babies and toddlers in the event of a collision.
The last time Which? investigated the problem, it contacted eBay who removed the car seats from sale. However, as there are multiple sellers all selling similar types of car seat many more have since sprung up.
Which? feels that as the car seats are very distinctive, online marketplaces should be able to recognise them and remove them from sale as soon as they’re listed in order to prevent anyone being duped by a dangerous product that puts their child at risk.
The danger was highlighted in 2014 after Surrey Trading Standards and manufacturer Britax carried out a crash test which resulted in a fabric seat falling to pieces in a 30mph crash.
Alarmingly, the crash test dummy which represented a three-year-old child was flung through the windscreen when the straps securing the seat failed.
At the time, Surrey Trading Standards dubbed them ‘killer car seats’ and proceeded to remove dozens of the seats from sale but they have repeatedly re-appeared for sale on online marketplaces ever since.
The regulations state that only EU-approved child car seats can be used in the UK.
This means that only seats with a clear orange approval label have been put through EU safety testing and therefore can be legally sold on the UK market.
The UK e-commerce market is the largest in Europe and more than 30 million people in England and Wales bought at least one item via an online marketplace in 2015 – but this is making it much more difficult for consumers and the authorities to identify and trace rogue traders, and to take enforcement action against them.
Which? recently highlighted that the UK’s consumer enforcement system is on the brink of collapse – and that major reforms must include measures that improve monitoring and policing of online marketplaces.
However, this doesn’t absolve online marketplaces of their responsibility to do much more to prevent these dangerous products from going on sale in the first place – and remove them after they have been listed.
Alex Neill, Managing Director of Which? Home Products, said:
“Parents will be horrified at the thought they could be unwittingly putting their child’s life at risk with one of these ‘killer’ car seats. Online marketplaces cannot continue to turn a blind eye to dangerous and illegal products being sold on their sites.”
“The UK’s product safety regime is in dire need of reform. More needs to be done by big businesses and Government to protect consumers from dangerous products.”
Notes to editors:
- Video clip and images of the car seats available on request. Images of correct labelling also available.
- When Which? bought an unsafe car seat on eBay it found that it lacked any form of labelling (or even any instructions). The investigation also found fabric seats of a similar design and make-up on other online marketplaces.
- Anyone who is concerned about the safety of their current car seat or considering buying a new one should visit the Which? website for safety advice and the latest reviews.
- Earlier this month, Which? published a report called ‘Creating a successful enforcement system for UK consumers’ which set out a series of reforms designed to address chronic weaknesses in the consumer protection system.
Rights of reply:
When we contacted Amazon, eBay and Aliexpress, all three told us that child safety is of paramount importance to them and they prohibit the sale or listing of non-compliant items by sellers. They’ve further confirmed that they’ve already taken prompt action to remove the specific products we alerted them to. (Full RORs available on request)
Five tips for buying a safe car seat:
- Never buy a second-hand car seat as it is difficult to tell whether it has been in any crashes just by looking at it. There could be internal damage which could compromise the structural safety and isn’t obvious from the outside.
- Only buy a car seat from a retailer who can provide advice and help fit the car seat correctly.
- Check that the car seat has an orange label that shows it’s legal to be sold on the UK market. It should state ECE R44-03, ECE R44-04 or ECE R129.
- Instructions need to be clear, written in English and make sense. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar should be a warning sign.