With more of us shopping online since the pandemic started, there are serious concerns about the safety of baby products and children's toys sold on online marketplaces this Christmas.
Recent research from the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) found that 60% of toys being sold via third-party sellers on online marketplaces had serious safety failures when they tested them.
Shockingly, 86% were illegal to sell in the UK.
Which? testing has revealed safety problems with a number of baby and child products bought from AliExpress, Amazon Marketplace, Etsy, eBay and Wish.
Find out more about the BTHA report, what our own Which? tests found and how to shop safely online for baby and child products this Christmas.
In its 2020 report, BTHA discovered a worrying rise in the number of illegal and unsafe toys being sold on online marketplaces such as Amazon, Alibaba and eBay.
86% of the randomly selected toys failed to comply with UK toy safety laws and 60% had faults that made them unsafe to play with.
Compare this to 58% and 22% respectively from BTHA's 2019 report; the findings paint a worsening picture for online toy safety.
Unlike standard retailers, there's no legal requirement for online marketplaces to check the safety of products that sellers are listing on their site.
Trying to remove unsafe products has become 'like playing wack-a-mole', with seemingly identical products reappearing after removal from a marketplace, even after they've been reported as unsafe.
And with many of the international sellers on online marketplaces falling outside the jurisdiction of UK enforcement authorities, tracing those responsible and holding them accountable is almost impossible.
This is why organisations such as Which? and BTHA, as well as the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) are calling for greater regulation and accountability for online marketplaces failing to protect consumers.
Which? investigations into baby and child products found a number of safety issues and we would encourage you to be cautious when shopping for these products:
Slime and putty toys are bestsellers every Christmas, but we've found restricted chemicals every time we've tested them.
Our advice is to approach all slime and putty with caution as many lack safety labelling or information on ingredients.
Some were even self-certifying the packaging with a CE mark, suggesting the product is safe, despite the fact that the boron levels were too high.
If a toy has button batteries, it's crucial that you make sure the battery is secured behind a screwed-down flap.
Watch our video to see why you have to be very careful about children getting access to button batteries.
Babies will inevitably put things in their mouth, so it's essential any toy you buy is age-appropriate and checked for choking hazards before you give it to your child.
This is even more important for teething toys, which are designed for babies to chew on to relieve teething pain.
Smart toys have some degree of connectivity allowing you and your child to interact with the toy via a smart device.
Unsecured connected toys can be a hacking risk, allowing anyone to connect to the toy and talk to your child.
Some had neck openings that are too wide, which could lead to a baby slipping down into the bag and suffocating, inaccurate tog ratings that could lead to a baby seriously overheating and a lack ofkey safety information in the instructions.
When buying a baby sleeping bag, make sure it's from a reputable brand and complies with BS EN 16781:2018, which is the safety standard for baby sleeping bags.
Research carried out by Which? earlier in 2020, in collaboration with five other European consumers' associations, found that two thirds of online marketplace products didn't pass relevant safety tests.
Below are the children products tested. Safety tests discovered cosmetics sold without their ingredients and children's toys with choke hazards.
|Type of product||Number of products bought from online marketplaces||Number of safety test failures|
|Personal care and cosmetics|
To help you avoid unsafe products online in the lead up to Christmas, follow our top tips:
From our tests and the BTHA's report, there are clear and significant improvements that need to be made to ensure consumers are protected when buying from online marketplaces.