The online marketplace sellers toying with children’s safety

Online sales have dramatically increased in recent years. For the UK toy industry, more than half of toy sales are now made online[1]. Unfortunately, not all toys and games seen online meet the necessary safety standards and this is particularly true for those bought by third party sellers via online marketplaces.

Over the last four years at the British Toy & Hobby Association, we have reported unacceptable levels of illegal and unsafe toys being sold via online marketplaces[2]. Unlike traditional retail, there is no legal requirement for online marketplaces to check the safety of the products that other sellers are listing on their site. Instead, it is left to the individual sellers, who are often based overseas, outside the jurisdiction of UK enforcement – and no one in this supply chain is responsible for checking the safety of a toy before it reaches your home.

With a squeeze on spending and more of us looking for a good deal in the run up to Christmas, it’s important to know of the dangers and the safe places to buy toys. Reputable toy companies invest thousands of pounds to make quality, safe toys for kids to enjoy and play with, but don’t assume just because you can buy something online, that it must be safe.

What to look for when buying online

  1. Be more careful about buying from third-party sellers on online marketplaces – don’t assume that any safety tests have been carried out. Look for sellers you recognise and trust – the toy brand directly or a responsible retailer, or if you purchase from a name you don’t recognise, be more cautious and do more research and checks.

  2. Do some research before you buy – search for the company/brand that makes the toy or character you want to buy and then include the company name when you search the online marketplace.

  3. Be careful of going for the cheapest price – if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

  4. Check if there are any age restrictions on the product, such as “not suitable for under 3s” and check that against the image used to sell the product – make sure it is in fact suitable for a toddler and has not small parts that could be swallowed.

  5.  Check who the seller is. Look at the address details, see which country they’re based in. Do they have a clear address to return the item if you are unhappy? Do they have a track record of selling the type of item you are buying (and therefore know what the safety requirements are)? Do they have reviews?

  6. Check reviews carefully. Some reviews are fake so look carefully at the comments, are they too good to be true, are there genuine comments about the toy and its features and the buyers experience?

  7. Once you have made your purchase, immediately check your confirmation receipt. Check the source of the product is who you thought you had bought from. If you have bought from a third-party it will be listed on this receipt.

  8. Once you receive your toy, check if it has an EU or UK address, check for a CE or UKCA mark and see if the packaging looks genuine.

  9. When your child opens a toy, stay with them and check for faults, detachable small parts, access to stuffing and loose or accessible batteries or magnets.

  10. If you think the toy, you have bought is unsafe or illegal write a review to warn other purchasers and talk to your local Trading Standards.

Further advice and information on the work of the British Toy & Hobby Association can be found here.

All British Toy & Hobby Association members sign a code of practice under the umbrella of the Lion Mark which includes rules covering the safe manufacture of toys. You can see a full list of member toy companies here.

Kerri Atherton, Head of Public Affairs
British Toy & Hobby Association

[1] The NPD Group –