18th Jan, 2021

Tips on how to shop safely online for children’s Christmas toys

Leamington Editorial 1st Dec, 2020

Christmas toy safety campaign

A Christmas online toy safety campaign has been launched by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) working in partnership with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, the Child Accident Prevention Trust, and the British Toy and Hobby Association.

The number of dangerous toys sold online to unsuspecting families is on the increase – so it’s important to be extra cautious when buying Christmas presents this year.

Worryingly, if you buy from a third party seller via one of the well-known online marketplaces, toys might not meet UK safety standards.

Online marketplaces are simply offering a shop window to sellers around the world and aren’t legally required to check if a toy is safe before allowing it to be sold.

Dangers can include:

  • Magnets so strong they can burn through a child’s gut if swallowed
  • Long cords that can strangle a child
  • Dangerous levels of chemicals
  • Small parts that can choke or suffocate
  • Easy access to button batteries that can get stuck in a child’s food pipe, cause internal bleeding and even death.

Lots of families will be looking for bargains online this year due to shop closures and financial pressures caused by Covid-19 but it pays to be vigilant. If you are able to, then buy direct via the websites of well-known brand names.

If you are buying from an online marketplace, enter a reputable brand name when you search for the toy you want, to be sure it’s safe.

How to spot if a toy could be unsafe:

  • Remember, toys aren’t checked for safety before they’re sold by an online marketplace.
  • If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is – it costs manufacturers money to make toys safe. Try to find something you can be more sure about.
  • Babies and toddlers put nearly everything in their mouths, which is why toys not designed for this age group need to state ‘not suitable for under 3s’ or have a warning symbol. Under 3s may choke on small parts or loose hair, so be wary of toys which feature small or loose parts and have no age warning.
  • If the listing includes contradictory information about the toy – for example, it’s described as a toddler’s toy, but elsewhere it says it’s not suitable for under 12s – think again.
  • Look out for suspicious reviews. If they look like they’re copied from a toy’s leaflet, sound very similar or were written on the same day, they could be fake.
  • Find out where the company is based. It’s a legal requirement to have a UK or EU address to sell toys here. If they’re based outside the UK or EU, the toys may not comply with UK safety standards.
  • The CE mark or Lion Mark show toys have been made to approved standards. However, some unscrupulous companies can fake them – so if you already have concerns, don’t rely on these alone.

Natasha Crookes, Director of Public Affairs, British Toy and Hobby Association, says: “The British Toy and Hobby Association is pleased to support the OPSS advice to help parents to shop from reputable sellers online, to ensure children get to enjoy safe playtime this Christmas”.

Top buying tips from the OPSS include :

Buy toys from a reputable retailer

Check that there is a name and address for the manufacturer on the site and if this information is not available do not buy the toy. Read ratings and reviews to make sure the retailer has a good reputation for safe and reliable toys.

Always read the warnings and instructions

Heed the age restrictions: toys must be marked with age restrictions based on risks such as choking hazards.

Check that the toy is suitable for the intended recipient

Festive novelties can look like toys when they should be kept away from children. If a child has special needs, they may be more vulnerable to certain toys.

Ensure the toy has not been recalled

Check if the toy you are buying has been recalled at Product Recall

Check for button batteries

If a toy has button batteries make sure they are safely behind a screwed-down flap.

Beware of potential toy hazards

Avoid buying toys with small parts as they can be a choking hazard. Think before buying toys and costumes with loose ribbons as they can pose strangulation risks to young children.

Buy genuine toys

Compare the toy’s price with other retailers and sellers. If it is a fraction of the cost, it is likely to be counterfeit.

Groups, businesses, and individuals are encouraged to support the consumer awareness messages, on how to shop safely when purchasing Christmas toys online, by retweeting and posting them on social media, using the hashtag #shopsafely, or using the shared campaign materials.

To support the campaign you can also download the campaign materials from the Consumer safety awareness campaigns materials by clicking here.


More information:

– Listen to this interview from the Jeremy Vine Show [opens in Facebook]

– Don’t assume that, just because you can buy something, it must be safe – more about Toy Safety

– Read this warning about the risks of magnetic toys

– Find out more about the risks posed by button batteries

– British Toy and Hobby Association

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