Child car seat advice still putting children at risk

In Child Safety Week, Which? has found parents are still getting incorrect and potentially dangerous advice from retailers on how to fit child car seats.

Which? sent mystery shoppers into seven branches for each of the five major child car seat retailers to scrutinise the standard of advice on offer from trained members of staff.

Shockingly, no more than two out of seven stores from each of Halfords, Mothercare, John Lewis, Mamas & Papas or Babies R Us gave the correct advice when it came to correctly installing the seat. No retailer had more than three of their visited stores asking what type of car the seat would be used in – a vital question.

It is crucial that any seat is installed and adjusted to the manufacturer’s instructions, because protection for the child in a crash is likely to be compromised if the seat is incorrectly installed or adjusted. This could put a child at serious risk in the case of an accident.

Mothercare came top of the five chains investigated but still scored much lower in comparison to independent stores Which? tested last year. Mamas & Papas and Babies R Us made a substantial improvement but are still a long way from satisfactory, and Halfords and John Lewis scores were worse than in our previous investigation.

None of the five retailers improved on their scores for correctly installing a child car seat, compared to our previous investigation in October 2011, with three doing worse.

The failings continue despite four of the five retailers promising to improve the service they offer to parents, after last year’s investigation.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said:

“It is unacceptable that major high street retailers are still giving poor advice and failing to highlight crucial information that is key to a child’s safety, despite some of them promising to do better last year.

“We want retailers to improve their staff training and knowledge of child car seats so that all major high street retailers offer the correct advice every time. Parents should be able to trust the advice they get from major retailers.”


Notes to editors

1 More information from Which? on Child Safety Week 2012 can be found here:

The full article “Child car seat safety” appears in the July issue of Which? magazine.

Retailers’ responses are available upon request.

In October 2011 our investigation found just under half of the 43 stores we visited recommended seats that were incompatible for the car and 49% of all stores we visited failed to install our child seat correctly. The following came as a result of our initial investigation. We gave detailed feedback to each retailer and created a 10-point retailer best-practice charter. This covers the 10 areas we believe are critical for every trained assistant to know before selling a child car seat to the customer. And we’ve been consulting with these retailers about using our charter at their stores.

We revisited our investigation in May this year, choosing seven more stores from the same five retailers.

The key areas they were tested on include:

  • Did the retailer ask the child’s weight?
  • Did they explain the benefit of the child being in a rear-facing seat for longer?
  • Did they explain that head position is also important (relative to seat height), and that it’s not usually a problem if the baby’s legs are touching the main car seat?
  • Did they ask what cars the seat will be used in?
  • Did they recommend appropriate seats for our car? If they found they weren’t appropriate (from the manufacturer’s website or a fitting trial), did they tell us?
  • We’d expect staff to tell us basic facts, such as not all seats fit all cars. We asked them to explain the Isofix system to us, and to tell us more about rear-facing group 1 seats (that allow you to carry children rear-facing up to 18kg). We also asked about the merits of child seats with an ‘impact shield’ instead of a traditional harness.
  • Did they install the recommended seat correctly in our car?


7      Retailer fitting advice scorecard

Retailer scorecard

Green = higher than last year Red = lower than last year Black = same as last year

Press Release: ,