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Almost half of toys sold via online marketplaces are unsafe for children, report finds

Research by the British Toy and Hobby Association finds dangerous items listed for sale could choke, strangle, burn, poison or electrocute children

Saman Javed
Wednesday 06 October 2021 13:24 BST
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<p>Children’s toy chest with stuffed toys and building blocks </p>

Children’s toy chest with stuffed toys and building blocks

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Nearly half of the toys being sold on online marketplaces by third-party sellers are dangerously unsafe for children, the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) has warned.

In its latest report, “Still toying with children’s safety”, published on Tuesday 5 October, the association found that 48 per cent of toys currently on sale could choke, strangle, burn, poison or electrocute children.

The study randomly selected and inspected 255 toys listed by third-party sellers on Amazon, eBay, AliExpress and Wish.

The BTHA reported that 88 per cent of these were illegal in the UK, while 48 per cent were deemed unsafe for a child to play with.

Examples included a magnetic fishing rod listed on AliExpress, a remote control-operated flying ball on Amazon and soft interactive baby dolls listed on eBay. All three adverts have since been taken down.

In response to its findings the BTHA, which represents 150 British toy manufacturers, has launched a new campaign calling for the government to urgently change the law surrounding the sale of children’s toys via online marketplaces.

There is currently no legal requirement for online marketplaces to check the safety of the products third-party sellers are listing.

This responsibility is left to the individual sellers, who “are often based overseas, outside the jurisdiction of UK enforcement”, the BTHA said.

Now, the BTHA is asking the government to make regulatory changes to hold both platforms and sellers to account.

It said consumer rights “must be strengthened” and platforms must pre-vet sellers and products prior to them going on sale.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Sam McCarthy, a mother whose two-year-old daughter, Rebecca, almost died after swallowing magnets that were purchased on eBay.

“I would hate for any other child to go through what Becca suffered because of buying dangerous toys via online marketplaces,” McCarthy said.

“The government needs to take urgent action before any other child is critically injured or even dies.”

Natasha Crookes, director of public affairs for the BTHA, said it is unacceptable that unsafe toys are “simply allowed to enter the UK market”.

She continued: “We believe the government has to step in to legislate this wild-west of safety and we must see politicians from all sides of the House coming together to protect children as part of the UK review of the product safety framework in 2021.”

Following Brexit, the government will amend its product safety laws later this year.

In March, it issued a call for evidence seeking views on what the prospective reforms should entail.

A spokesperson for eBay told The Independent: “We take the safety of our users extremely seriously and we’re sorry to hear of Ms McCarthy’s experience.

“We work closely with authorities including Westminster Trading Standards and OPSS to help ensure our sellers comply with laws and regulations.

“We have filters in place which automatically block listings which are unsafe or do not comply with our policies.

“Our teams also work around the clock as an additional safety net to manually review and remove anything which may not have been caught by our filters.”

A spokesperson for AliExpress told The Independent: “We are investigating the items identified by the BTHA and we will take appropriate action in accordance with our platform rules, including where applicable removal of products and penalising sellers found to be violating our platform rules and regulations.”

In a statement to The Independent, Amazon said: “Safety is important to Amazon and we are investigating the products in question as a matter of urgency.

“We require all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations and we have proactive measures in place to prevent suspicious or non-compliant products from being listed.”

A spokesperson for Wish told Sky News: “All merchants trading on our platform undergo certain checks before being permitted to trade.

“They are also required through our Merchant Policies and Terms of Service to adhere to all applicable product compliance laws and regulations, including local laws and safety standards, wherever their goods are sold.

“Where a product doesn’t meet those standards, it is promptly removed and, where deemed appropriate by Wish, the responsible merchant has their account privileges revoked, faces suspension, or even removal from the platform.”

The BTHA has launched a petition alongside its campaign, which members of the public can sign here.

The Independent has contacted Wish for comment.

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