If you’re looking to buy a baby carrier or sling, beware of fakes. There’s a large counterfeit market for certain brands of slings and carriers, and it can be easy to get duped when you’re hunting for a deal.
Carrying your baby in a counterfeit carrier or sling could be putting their safety at risk. It’s worth you knowing first and foremost that there is currently no legal requirement for a sling or baby carrier to meet the British safety standards for construction and testing of baby carriers. Big brands will undertake this testing anyway to make sure their products meet the standards, but counterfeit carriers will not, so purchasing one leaves you and your baby vulnerable.
You don’t know what harmful chemicals or dyes may have been used in the fabric, straps and buckles, and because babies will chew and suck on buckles and straps, it’s a real concern if any unsafe chemicals have been used in the construction of the product.
Bad stitching and flimsy construction is also an obvious worry - a representative from Moby Wrap told us she had consumers reporting that their counterfeit product had torn during use. It’s also possible that the material used in a counterfeit product will not be fire retardant.
On top of this, if you do run into problems, there will not be any warranty protection on these products.
As a side note, unbranded products online will suffer from the same drawbacks, so even if a product is more of an ‘imitation’ then an outright counterfeit, you run the risks.
So how can you spot a fake? There are a few golden rules to start with to make sure you’re getting a genuine product.
The safest thing you can do is to only purchase from authorised retailers. Have a look on a brand’s store locator on their website, or contact a customer service representative to double check. Be very wary of Ebay sellers – as there are currently very little to no authorised sellers on Ebay – and know that even Amazon can be risky, because Amazon sellers don’t have to source from accredited retailers.
You should also be wary of the use of branding. We heard from Moby, Beco and Ergo that unauthorised online retailers rip off the promotional imagery and branding used in legitimate marketing material, which can make it more difficult to discern a dodgy retailer.
Another thing to look for is the range of colours and designs on offer. Moby and Beco told us that there are common colours and designs used by counterfeiters. The images below show some common fake Beco designs, and common fake Moby Wrap colours - complete with imitation Moby Wrap branding.
Take a critical look at the price. Baby products can be expensive, so it can be tempting to latch on to a bargain. But the manufacturers and sling libraries that we spoke to all offered the same warning: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Some manufacturers are more severely affected by counterfeit products than others. The most copied is the Ergo Baby Original carrier. Some physical traits of the carriers can help distinguish a fake from a genuine product. Emily Williamson of the provided us with photos to demonstrate some common differences.
At first, the two carriers look relatively similar, but upon closer inspection, discrepancies in the stitching, fabric, labels and buckles can be seen.
You can see subtle differences in the quality of the materials on the straps and buckles, and in the stitching.
The composition and construction of the straps looks slightly flimsier with the fake. The material used on the counterfeit is a darker colour and slightly ‘shinier’, as it is made from cheaper materials.
The labels offer another clue: on a fake, the label is usually only in one or two languages, but on a real one there will be three to five languages. Also, look out for misspellings in the text.
Again, you can see discrepancies in the quality of the material and stitching.
There are also some notable differences between these fake (blue) and genuine (black) Moby Wraps. Spotted by Emily at the South London Sling Library – there is no label on the fake Moby Wrap, and the genuine Moby has a thinner, flat woven, natural coloured cord drawstring with no knots; the fake has a thicker, white, rounded cord that is knotted at each side.
Emily cautions, though, that counterfeit carriers will differ in their design and construction, so while inspecting photographs can help in detecting a fake, they don’t always tell the whole story. Representatives from Ergobaby, Beco, and Moby Wrap echoed this caveat, with everyone agreeing that the real-life look and feel of fakes was also a tell-tale sign that you can’t determine from looking at photos online – the weight and fabric quality of a fake carrier or sling is likely to be lighter, flimsier.
There are things you can look for when shopping for a specific brand, so we asked manufacturers of commonly counterfeited slings and carriers to give us their checklists for detecting fakes.
Ergobaby let us know that they are currently working on an authorised retailer program that will be launched on their website soon.
In light of the above, if you want to buy second-hand, you should clearly exercise a lot of caution. Rachel Coy of the North East Sling Library recommends asking any non-authorised sellers for proof of authenticity in the form of original receipts, serial numbers and detailed photographs. Even well-intentioned hand-me-downs from friends might be fakes without them knowing. Another thing to keep in mind that the same lack of warranty will generally apply to second-hand products as to fakes.
We would also emphasise the need to inspect all second-hand carriers for signs of wear and tear, as they can deteriorate with heavy use – whether real or fake.