Illegal and 'unsafe' toys found online in run-up to Christmas

ITV News Reporter Lauren Hall investigates the safety of toys in the run-up to the festive period

An ITV News investigation has found toys being sold on Amazon Marketplace in the run-up to Christmas which are considered illegal and potentially dangerous.

Amazon has taken the toys off sale while they investigate after we shared our findings with them.

ITV News carried out six test purchases from third-party sellers on the online platform and arranged for a toy safety expert from the British Toy and Hobby Association to carry out an initial assessment.

The toys were not independently tested in a laboratory but initial findings for the products revealed that four of them were all considered 'illegal', which means they did not comply with UK toy legislation.

This was for technical reasons such as issues with labelling and safety warnings.

There were also concerns about the safety of two toys. ITV News were told a small toy guitar had gaps which could trap fingers or allow access to electrical circuits.

There were also potential issues with its noise levels and the suitability of its cord. Meanwhile, a musical Christmas tree, which was marketed as a product for babies, had no warnings or electrical safety information.

An Amazon spokesperson said: “Safety is a top priority at Amazon.

"We have proactive measures in place to prevent suspicious or non-compliant products from being listed and we monitor the products sold in our stores for product safety concerns.

"When appropriate, we remove a product from the store, reach out to sellers, manufacturers, and government agencies for additional information, or take other actions. 

"If customers have concerns about an item they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact our Customer Service directly so we can investigate and take appropriate action.”

Earlier this year, the British Toy and Hobby Association bought 255 toys randomly selected from several online marketplaces. 

88% were illegal and 48% were unsafe, which means they could harm or kill a child.

Sam McCarthy bought a toy, from a different online retailer, for her son last Christmas which almost killed her young daughter.

Her son had asked for a set of small magnets and her daughter Becca - who was under two-years-old at the time - swallowed 14 after finding them hidden in the carpet. 

She needed major surgery and is lucky to be alive. Mrs McCarthy wants to warn other parents to be vigilant when shopping online over the festive season.  

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

Neena Bhati from consumer service Which? said: “We would urge those who are looking to buy gifts for children to really do your homework when you’re on these marketplaces.

"Ensure if you’re buying from a third-party retailer that it’s a known brand. Or steer clear.”

How to avoid unsafe toys this Christmas

  • Remember that babies and toddlers will put toys in their mouths. Toys that aren't designed for that age group should come with a "not suitable for Under 3's" warning.

  • Be wary of toys containing small or loose parts and no age warning.

  • Find out where the seller is based - if they're outside the UK/EU they might not have the same safety standards.

  • If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Remember it costs manufacturers money to make toys safe.

  • Check reviews - if they all sound similar, or were all written on the same day then they could be fake.