Should I Buy Cheap Copies of Toys on Amazon?
Last month we were emailed by the “Office for Product Safety and Standards”, a product enforcement compliance officer!! Heart rate jumps, hairs stand on end, stay calm and read through this email carefully Pete. What do they want. It’s about Triclimb, right, they want the safety documents…. OK why… they want it within 5 working days in RED. I keep reading and then come to this line,
“OPSS are conducting product conformity checks to verify the safety of children’s indoor climbing frames, often described as Pikler triangles. These products are classed as toys and are controlled by the Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011.”
OK so I calm down a little. Pick up the phone. Call the Officer. He tells me they’re doing a sweep of the market on Pikler triangles. Why? Because Amazon, Ebay, Etsy and other online market places are now filled with triangles that don’t meet EU safety standards, the important one being EN71 part 8 for activity toys. I dutifully email back all the safety test documents and labelling details and our enforcement officer closes that case for us.
Toy Safety, important right?
Of course it’s important and that’s why we have toy safety standards and labelling regulations to ensure accountability. Myself, Christine and Jolene are accountable for Triclimb which is why I have told that story above. Safety standards ensure that toys meet all kinds of safety criteria to do with hazardous materials, choking, strangulation, burning, poison and so on. The EU standard is the CE mark and now in the UK we are phasing in the UKCA mark. However the current standards are essentially the same.
I’ve learnt a lot, and I mean a LOT, about safety testing in the last 4 years since we embarked on making the Triclimb Pikler inspired triangle. Bringing a product of your own to market which involves big indoor climbing equipment suitable from birth puts you on a steep learning curve for sure! I’ve also had experience dealing directly with trading standards on a number of other products, working through independent testing processes for various reasons. I know my stuff when it comes to toy safety standards and what’s required. These things are complicated and it even catches the big players like Mattel out on occasion, the usual culprits are chemicals in paints as well as magnets – https://www.theguardian.com/business/2007/aug/15/usnews.china1
Selling Wooden Toys Online
We have been selling wooden toys for the last 14 years. It’s hard to believe now but back then it really was a small niche market. In recent years awareness of plastic pollution and a more considered approach to the full lifecycle of products has entered the mainstream consciousness and so wooden toys have really taken off.
Along with this increase in popularity has come an explosion of wooden toys listed on online market places like Amazon and Ebay. Many (but not all) sellers are based overseas. They can sell on Amazon, ship direct, even using Amazon’s warehouse despatch facilities and they effectively operate outside of the law.
A retailer in the UK is responsible for making sure that goods carry a CE and or UKCA mark but Amazon and other platforms are not classed as the retailer so they are absolved of any responsibility for their 3rd party sellers. When an enforcement officer contacts the 3rd party seller for safety testing certificates and labelling information, as they did to us with Triclimb, they have no way of enforcing the law or stopping the seller if regulations aren’t adhered to. They are literally powerless to stop dangerous toys being sold.
So in answer to the question, should you buy cheap copies from Amazon or other selling platforms?
That’s not for me to answer, it’s your call to make. But what I can tell you is that these sellers are bypassing UK and EU law. You might see a CE mark on the box but that doesn’t mean it’s actually been independently tested. There is no accountability or traceability whatsoever. Furthermore, we have little or no knowledge about how these toys are being made. Are they exploiting workers and natural resources? We just don’t know.
It’s important to note that there are many responsible and reputable UK based business using Amazon as a trading platform. In these cases those sellers are the ones responsible to ensure goods are correctly labelled and that the suppliers they are buying from are conducting adequate safety testing. But on that same note, how many sellers are buying in bulk off places like Ali Express and then listing products on Ebay and Amazon with little knowledge of required regulations?
So the answer as always isn’t black and white but do be careful. Do your research, buy from a reputable business, and that goes for everywhere online not just online market places. Websites are getting really good at making you think you’re shopping from a UK based business when actually you’re buying from outside the EU. Be aware of the issues and be vigilant.
Don’t just listen to me on this one. Some further reading and research for you below. The research was conducted by the British Toy and Hobby Association. Yes their agenda is to protect the British toy industry but rightly so!
Petition to campaign for a change in the law – https://toysafety.co.uk/
Explained in the independent – https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/toys-children-safety-danger-amazon-ebay-b1933241.html
Do I have a personal agenda here? Of course I blinkin do! Part of our business is selling wooden toys, our customers are going onto Amazon and finding similar looking products at lower prices from unknown sellers who operate outside the law. It’s a threat to our business, our jobs and it is wrong. At worst it’s potentially threatening children’s safety too. Sign the petition above, the law needs to change, selling platforms need to take responsibility.