Letter: EC bureaucrats and Oxfam toys

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your reference to the 'red tape' that now prevents Oxfam and other charity shops from selling many second-hand toys ('Charities dump toys under EC directive', 26 August) highlighted the disappointment of some of our donors at a time when Oxfam is working harder than ever to raise funds to help to improve conditions for poor people, particularly in Africa.

The DTI, which has responsibility for implementing the EC directive on the new Europe-wide CE safety mark, is quite right to treat Oxfam shops as a business. Oxfam's retail network is the largest charity shop chain in the UK and we have always liaised closely with the DTI and local trading standards offices to ensure that we observe the highest standards of safety.

Oxfam is questioning this legislation because we do not believe it raises safety standards in the case of second-hand toys and also because it has forced us to advise our Oxfam shop volunteers to turn away or throw away many perfectly safe donated toys that do not carry the CE mark.

While the sale of such toys is not illegal if we can prove that they were placed on the market for the first time before January 1990, the cost of investigating the history of donated toys is prohibitive.

Oxfam shop volunteers must still carry out basic tests on toys that do bear the CE mark (tugging at eyes, checking for sharp edges, etc) and those which fail will, as ever, be scrapped. Oxfam fully accepts its legal responsibilities for safeguarding the customer, but continues to question the logic of legislation that consigns safe toys to the dustbin.

Yours faithfully,

PAUL CLIFFORD

Assistant Director

Oxfam

Oxford

27 August

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