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TIE pushes for new laws for online marketplaces as report uncovers toy safety concerns across EU

A new report by Toy Industries of Europe has made the striking discovery that 97 per cent of almost 200 toys bought from third-party sellers on four online marketplaces in Europe did not comply with the strict EU toy safety regulations.

The report – EU Toy Safety: The problem of unreputable sellers on online marketplaces – also found that 76 per cent of those tested had defects that made them dangerous for children.

Issues with the toys varied – including risk of choking from small toy parts that detached easily, harmful chemical levels that were several hundred-fold over the EU legal limit, and risk of injury from sharp points.

The toys purchased were non-branded or brands not commonly recognised in the EU.

TIE has highlighted the insufficient responsibility taken by online marketplaces and lack of clear legislation as the greatest enablers of the problem. Its stance is that with e-Commerce proving so vital to economy and society, every effort needs to be made to build consumers’ trust in buying online.

“A fundamental change is that the EU – and consequently national governments – must recognise the role of online marketplaces in the supply chain. They are comparable to an importer or a distributor and should be subject to comparable rules,” said Catherine Van Reeth, director general of TIE.

“The current lack of clarity on their role means they can – and do – sidestep their responsibility for the safety of toys sold on their platforms. On the other hand, reputable toy makers invest heavily in ensuring that their products comply with all regulation and do not place children in danger.”

EU laws expected to be proposed in 2020 have the possibility to enforce online marketplaces to do more to prevent, react to and screen disreputable seller activity.

All four online marketplaces were presented with the report findings. According to TIE, the level of response ‘varied but was lacklustre across the board’.

To date, two of the marketplaces have not sent any form of notification to customers who bought the defective or non-compliant toys. After more than two months, a third had sent just 12 communications out of 31 toys reported as potentially dangerous and the notifications did not specify why the toys were dangerous.

The fourth marketplace contacted some customers even later but gave quite detailed information and guidance.

While three out of four marketplaces quickly removed the listings TIE identified as unsafe and illegal toys, toys that appear, and most likely are, identical remain widely available. In June 2020, they are still on sale on the four marketplaces.

TIE has taken this as further proof that the obligations of online marketplaces need to be written into law.

In addition to new laws, TIE has also placed great importance on consumer awareness, and has issued a number of tips for buying safe toys online.

  • Do not make the mistake thinking the seller is the online marketplace – in many cases a third-party seller is offering the goods and the marketplace is not assuming responsibility.
  • Know who you are buying from – have a look at the name of the seller – is it a brand or company that you recognise? If not, are they a real company (do they have a website, registered address etc.) when you search for them online?
  • Consider whether the toy is a genuine bargain – does the price of the toy compare to similar products? Is the toy you are looking at substantially cheaper from this seller than from other sources. There will be a reason for these differences, it could be due to the seller cutting down on safety related costs.
  • When the toy arrives, check for the address of the manufacturer or EU importer on the toy or its packaging – these are legal requirements for all toys being sold in the EU.

The TIE report follows a 2019 report from the British Toy and Hobby Association which conducted a similar exercise for the UK market.

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