A report conducted by the British Toy and Hobby Association into the sale of toys via online marketplaces found that 58 per cent of those selected for assessment did not comply with the UK toy safety regulations.
The findings have prompted the industry body to call for widespread change and action from the government to ensure that online marketplaces did not sell illegal toys to UK consumers.
Today, the BTHA has launched a white paper calling for government legislation to remove non-compliant toys from the market. The research found that 58 per cent of toys selected for assessment were non-compliant with regulations, while 22 per cent of the total had serious safety issues.
Samples were taken from online giants Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress. Of the 100 taken from Amazon, the research found that 28 were illegal (did not comply with Toy Safety Directive), 18 were unsafe, and 10 had failed testing. 50 toys were then taken from eBay and AliExpress each, where it was discovered that 24 per cent of the sample from eBay was unsafe and 46 per cent non-compliant, while 30 pr cent from AliExpress were deemed unsafe, and 92 per cent non-compliant.
The BTHA, which represents responsible toy makers across the UK, has been actively raising awareness that toys sold by third-party sellers on online marketplaces pose significant safety risks for the British public for a number of years.
Natasha Crookes, director of communications for the BTHA, said: “The BTHA has been testing toys on online marketplaces and finding concerning levels of illegal and unsafe toys. We have been sharing the results with the platforms and regulators to call for change.
“We are concerned that unsafe and illegal products are not removed fast enough and identical products remain on sale. There are gaps in the UK regulations which allow the sellers and the marketplaces to not be held to account and for unsafe toys to continue to be available to UK consumers. We call on government to close that gap before a child is seriously injured or killed by an unsafe toy.”
Toys are already one of the most highly regulated product categories for sale in the UK, and across Europe, and regulations cover every element of the toy from the physical properties of the toy design to the chemical composition of the materials it is made from.
Making toys to these standards is a legal requirement. However, the reports has highlighted a number of unscrupulous sellers who are ‘happy to undercut prices by making substandard and illegal toys that are put into the hands of children.’
Such sellers have an avenue to market that was not previously available, and while online marketplaces are able to offer consumers a large choice of product – many of them safe for sale – they also offer an opportunity for illegal and non-compliant product to slip through.
“Our laws need to be adapted to ensure accountability for products available in a 21st century online marketplace,” added Crookes.
Members of the BTHA reported concerns to the Association that they believed there were an increasing number of unsafe toys reaching children in the UK through third-party sellers on online marketplaces. The BTHA subsequently sample purchased 200 toys from the largest marketplaces.
It found that 58 per cent of those toys were illegal to sell in the UK as they failed to comply with safety requirements, such as having incorrect labels and no address to be able to trace the seller. 22 per cent had serious safety failures which could cause serious injury or death to a child.
The BTHA has informed the various marketplaces, their Primary Authority Trading Standards Office (where they have one), the BTHA’s own Primary Authority Trading Standards Office and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).
The BTHA is now calling on government departments to take action to ensure only safe and legal toys are able to be sold in the UK. The actions it is now calling for are:
- For the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, specifically the Office for Product Safety and Strategy to work with Trading Standards to ensure the unsafe products identified are removed by the online platforms.
- For the Government to lead on defining and clarifying the role and expectations of online marketplaces within the scope of the existing regulations so they are accountable for checking the safety of the products they allow to be sold in the UK.
- For the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office to widen the definition of ‘online harms’ in the Online Harms White Paper which is currently under consultation. It wants to see the definition of ‘online harms’ widened to include harm from unsafe products sold online, to ensure children are protected from the behaviour of those that hide behind the names of big brand platforms.
According to the BTHA, current issues are often caused by vendors being based overseas, outside the jurisdiction of UK enforcement bodies, making them harder to trace and force them to recall unsafe product.
It is the belief of many that, in these cases, online marketplaces should be held accountable for the products sold on their platforms.
“They must help to remove them from the market where safety issues are identified – this should extend to the removal of identical lines bing sold by other third-party sellers,” said Crookes.
“In addition, we call on the marketplaces to remove the illegal, counterfeited versions of our members products we found during the investigation and to make it easier for companies to remove these products from the platforms.
“Online marketplaces have disrupted the traditional retail market which has driven changes for consumers including convenience and choice. However, this cannot be at the detriment of safety and our laws need to be adapted to recognise that online marketplaces have established a new kind of international marketplace which requires more stringent regulatory oversight.”
The full report is available on request or can be downloaded from the BTHA website – https://www.btha.co.uk/advocacy/