Major retailers fail to install car seats safelyOur undercover research reveals serious failings

18 July 2014

In a Which? undercover investigation, 90% of child car seat retailers failed our challenge: to fit two car seats in a standard family car. Our results expose serious problems and potentially dangerous mistakes that could put lives at risk.

We sent car seat fitting experts undercover into 42 stores across the UK, asking each branch to fit two different car seats. Of the shops we visited, 90% failed to fit both car seats correctly, with only four stores managing to do this. And 13 stores completely failed to ask any essential pre-sales questions before the fittings.

You can see undercover footage taken during some of the most shocking fittings in our video below. You can also read more about our findings - and find out what the shops had to say about them - in our full car seat fitting investigation results.

Video: undercover car seat fitting footage

The worst car seat fittings

We visited branches of Mamas & Papas, Babies R Us, Halfords, Kiddicare, Mothercare and John Lewis, as well as a range of independent retailers.

Three chains performed particularly badly: Babies R Us and Mamas & Papas each failed 11 of the 12 fittings, while Kiddicare failed nine. All are in the bottom three because mistakes were made during fittings which could have had dire consequences if the seat had been used as fitted and the car had crashed. 

But it’s not just these three retailers that did badly: all the stores we visited have room to improve. Halfords managed just two successful fittings, Mothercare just three, and John Lewis – the best of the major retailers – still failed a worrying two-thirds of the fittings.

Don't forget that as well as installing the car seat correctly, it's important to buy one that's passed rigorous safety tests with flying colours. The models we've named Best Buy child car seats are the best on the market.

Independent retailers fared better

Independent stores achieved the highest number of successful fittings (seven out of 12), but our undercover experts still thought their advice wasn’t comprehensive enough.

Overall, during the investigation, most staff didn’t spend enough time fitting or explaining how to use the car seats. Some fitters blamed the products for being ‘broken’, but it was clear to our experts that their failings were often down to a lack of training.

Which? editor Richard Headland said: 'It’s unacceptable that retailers are providing such shockingly poor fitting services, which could potentially be putting children at risk.

'We have given our findings to the retailers and urged them to improve their staff training and knowledge of child car seats so they offer the correct advice every time. Parents should be able to trust the advice they get from major retailers.'

Which? car seat advice

It's important to get any car seat you want to buy fitted in the car(s) it will be used in, as not all models fit in all cars.

We advise that you research the product online before you go to the store and take our car seat fitting checklist along with you.

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