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Which? responds to Watchdog car seat investigation

High street shops fail fitting tests, again

Child in car seat More than 90% of major high street retailers fail a Watchdog child car seat investigation

A Watchdog investigation into five of the biggest high street retailers, offering child car seat fittings, uncovered shocking results and revealed more than 90% of fittings were wrong. 

John Lewis, Mothercare, Smyths, Toys R Us and Halfords were investigated, with store assistants at 10 different stores asked to fit an own-brand belted car seat. The results were shocking, as anyone who watched the show can see.  

Worryingly, these results reflect what Which? discovered when it investigated child car seats retailers last year. We uncovered 90% of stores investigated failed to fit two branded car seats correctly. 

Buying the best car seat possible isn’t enough. If it’s not fitted properly it won’t be effective in a crash and could put your child in serious dangers.

Which? shocking car seat investigation results – read about the mistakes Which? uncovered.

Fitting car seat

Fitting a child car seat correctly is vitally important

How to get a car seat fitted safely

Which? child car seat expert, Lisa Galliers, said: ‘The results of the crash tests shown on Watchdog are shocking, but unfortunately they are not surprising to us. This is hugely worrying and very disappointing. 

‘Since the Which? investigation, we’ve been working with many of the retailers to help improve the training and tools on offer to retail staff but, it seems, these changes aren’t filtering down to shop floor staff effectively or quickly enough, and this needs looking at again as a matter of urgency.

‘It’s encouraging to hear the retailers have responded already, but it’s vital that we keep checking these stores to make sure these changes actually take place.’

How can you keep your child safe

We also know car seats are not always fitted correctly by parents either and it’s vitally important that they check their child’s car seat on a regular basis.

For any parents worried about getting their car seat fitted properly, our advice is to still get it done by a fitting service. But, we would urge parents to research and read up on child car seats before going to the shop, watch our range of fitting videos in advance, and download our 10 quick fitting checks list and take this along with them for the fitting. Check the person doing the fitting has been trained, and to challenge anything they think looks incorrect or doesn’t look right – like a loose seat, or a slack seat belt.

We always recommend that parents read the instructions fully, too. And lots of seats now come with manufacturer QR codes and videos online to help.

The most common issues parents have with car seats include the seat not being stable in the car, the seat belt getting twisted or being too slack, and the harnesses or shield cushions not being tightened enough. If you spot any of these on you car seat, it may not protect as it should in a crash so make sure you sort them out as soon as possible.

Common car seat mistakes – get up to speed on fitting a car seat and the current law on car seats.

Car seat crash-testing

Every car seat reviewed by Which? is crash tested. Each car seat endures a front crash, equivalent to a head-on collision at around 40mph, and a side crash equivalent to two cars crashing into each other at 30mph, repeated again and again, in all the different ways a car seat can be used. The crash tests are severe, but our experts feel they more accurately reflect what happens in real crashes more than the legal minimum standards. 

Our car seat experts also check how easy is it to fit each car seat in a range of cars while experts also assess the ergonomics of each seat to see which seats hold your baby in the best position. 

Our child car seat testing reveals big differences between seats. Some protect babies and children well, but others expose them to the risk of serious injury or even death. The best child car seats will provide protection from both front and side impact crashes – two of the most common types of crash.

How we test car seats – find out why our reviews are different.

More on this…

  • How to fit a child car seat – watch our range of fitting video guides
  • Pushchair reviews – we check safety and durability of every one
  • High chairs – our tests weed out bad workmanship and unstable products
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