Don’t Be Fooled by a Fake: Buying Car Seats Online
Many of us shop online these days. The selection and deals can be attractive; items are shipped from all over the world and come right to your door! When it comes to buying a car seat or booster seat for your child, Child Safety Link recommends that caregivers use extra caution when buying online.
Q: Why do I need to be careful when buying child cars seats online?
There has been an alarming trend of cheap, illegal, and unsafe contraptions marketed as car seats popping up online. Sometimes they are even appearing on the sites of large online retailers that we all know and trust. There have been recent reports of these bogus car seats found in the U.S. and the U.K., and, unfortunately now in Canada.
Last month, community partners reported to Child Safety Link that one of these contraptions was listed on an online retail site that Canadian families trust every day to buy safe car seats and other baby gear. This product was available through the site from a third party vendor and included this description:
It was clear to us that this was a fake car seat. The mesh, backpack buckles and, the over-sized photoshopped baby made us look closer. That said, there are many different styles of safe car seats and booster seats – and some families may be unfamiliar with what a safe seat might look like. Concerned that this product could be ordered, we placed an order, doubtful that we would actually receive it. We were genuinely surprised, when the product arrived a few weeks later because Canadian customs officials are stringent about safety products and usually stop bogus items like this from entering the country. In a flat, lightweight package, this one made it through Customs simply because it did not look at all like car seat packaging and it was labeled only as “cushion.”
The product we received looks more like a baby carrier with straps you’d find on a high chair or backpack. There is no way to attach it securely to a vehicle, and so there is no way it would protect a child from injury in the event of a crash.
Transport Canada gave us permission to share the following photographs of a crash test performed on a cushion-like “car seat” similar to the one we received:
Why is a safe car seat important?
Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of fatal injury to children in Canada. We know that car seats save lives. Children who are restrained in a properly installed and fitted car seat are 71% more likely to survive a car crash.
The online retailer where we found this product has since taken it down off their site and has refunded customers who purchased it. A follow up email was received warning consumers not to use it and to return or destroy the product. This story had a happy ending, but there are many other dangerous products available online. Unfortunately, there is a growing trend of counterfeit seats appearing online, and Child Safety Link is concerned that parents may trust in products that will not protect their children in the car.
What can you do?
Here is the advice that we are giving parents who want to buy car seats and booster seats online:
Q: How can I tell if a car seat on an online site is fake, phony, bogus, or counterfeit?
There are several things you can do to make sure the car seat you want to buy online is safe and legal to use in Canada:
• Store: Buy direct from a large, reputable online retailer. Make sure that it is from that store and not a listed third party vendor.
• Brand: Look for a recognizable and reputable car seat brand.
• Reviews/ratings: Educate yourself about what other buyers have said about the car seat.
• Language: Read the online description carefully. Look for poor translations, spelling, and grammar mistakes. These have been commonly found on pages selling counterfeit seats.
AFTER YOU RECEIVE IT:
• Packaging: A legitimate car seat will be well packaged in materials specific to the car seat brand. It will include an instruction manual and a product registration card.
• Most importantly, check that is has a National Safety Mark certifying that it is safe and legal for use in Canada.
Q: What can I do if I suspect a product is unsafe?
The availability of this product was reported to the online retailer, Transport Canada, and Health Canada. Consumers can report unsafe products here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/report-health-safety-concern.html
Q: How can I be sure that a car seat bought online is safe and legal for use in Canada?
Again, all car seats that are safe and legal for use in Canada will have the National Safety Mark label on them. This label states that the car seat has been engineered and tested to meet high Canadian safety standards for how it will perform in a motor vehicle collision.
Q: Where can I get more car seat information?
You will find child passenger safety information for your child’s age and stage, including helpful fact sheets on each kind of car seat, checklists and instructional videos, here on our website. Follow Child Safety Link on Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with the latest news, trends and recalls pertaining to children’s safety.
For questions about this issue, please contact Child Safety Link’s car seat support line at 1-866-288-1388 (toll-free in Atlantic Canada) or 902-470-7036, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.