Christmas shoppers warned about risk of buying illegal, unsafe toys online

Christmas shoppers are being urged to be vigilant when buying toys online this year, and to look out for tell-tale signs of fake and potentially dangerous products as criminals exploit a festive surge in demand for toys

Teddy bear on side of road

With online sales likely to be higher than usual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Local Government Association is calling for the CE safety mark to be included in all product information on websites and online marketplaces selling toys. The LGA is also asking shoppers to look for an authentic looking CE mark on toys or their packaging which confirms they meet consumer safety standards, when goods are delivered. 

It comes as council trading standards teams continue to seize fake items, including LOL Dolls and Disney merchandise, which have contained banned materials.  

Examples include:  

  • Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards team found fake Disney’s Frozen II dolls that were found to contain a banned chemical plastic softener which has been linked to asthma, allergies and reproductive problems. The toys were missing the name and address of the manufacturer or importer on the packaging, as is legally required.
  • Trading Standards officers at Salford City Council seized more than 50,000 counterfeit and dangerous products in late 2019, including Disney, Marvel, Peppa Pig and LOL Surprise toys.
  • Solihull Trading Standards found a consignment of 350 plush toys which were missing a CE mark and only included an address for an importer in America rather than the European Union.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has launched their own online toy safety campaign this year, setting out things to keep in mind when finding that special gift for a young loved one or big kid. 

These include purchasing from a reputable retailer, ensuring the toy has not been recalled and checking that the toy’s price compares to other retailers to confirm it is genuine. 

Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: 

“Buying toys online can be a minefield, particularly when you’re after an in-demand product and are shopping with third party websites. 

“Fake, substandard toys can cause serious harm through choking hazards, toxic materials, burns or even fires. Not only is selling fake or illegal toys a crime, it harms the reputation of genuine traders who need our support more than ever at this time. 

“There are some tell-tale signs that a toy may not meet safety standards or could even be illegal, like a wonky CE mark or unusually low price, so it’s essential that you know what to look out for before starting your Christmas shopping this year. 

“More people are going to be shopping online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes it harder to check toys before you buy them. 

“While there are plenty of things we can do as consumers, it is also imperative that sellers include the CE mark in the information on websites offering toys for sale, if the product has been awarded one.” 

Notes to editors  

  • The Office for Product Safety and Standards have launched an online toy safety campaign. 
  • A report by the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) found that 86 per cent of toys purchased from online marketplaces for testing purposes over a year were illegal to sell in the UK as they failed to comply with toy safety requirements, and 60 per cent were deemed unsafe for a child to play with. 
  • Online marketplaces provide a platform for the sale of third-party products and should play a role in ensuring compliance with safety requirements, but agreements such as the European Product Safety Pledge are voluntary and this results in increased risks compared with buying from a reputable retailer.