TIE’s EU Toy Safety report: The problem of unreputable sellers on online marketplaces

A few months ago, TIE and our national toy associations bought almost 200 toys on four well-known e-commerce websites. For our test exercise we bought toys from third party sellers on those online marketplaces in seven EU countries. The toys purchased were non-branded or brands not commonly recognised in the EU.

We then checked all the toys for compliance with EU law and sent most of them to an independent lab for safety tests. The results are stark.

Today, our new report “EU Toy Safety: the problem of unreputable sellers on online marketplaces” shows that:

– 97% of the toys were non-compliant with EU law; and

– 76% of those tested were unsafe for children.

The EU has the world’s strictest toy safety rules, yet this report reveals a serious issue. The fact is that insufficient responsibility taken by online marketplaces for the products sold on their sites is putting children in danger.

With e-Commerce proving so vital to our industry and to the broader economy and society, every effort needs to be made to build consumers’ trust in buying online. Yet while online marketplaces host unverified and unreputable third party sellers as part of their business models, they do not assume enough responsibility for weeding them out.

All four online marketplaces were presented with the report findings. The level of responsiveness in terms of removing listings, checking for listings of identical toys and notifying customers varied between platforms, but could be described in many cases as lackluster. While marketplaces were notified of our results in October 2019, toys that seem identical to more than half of the notified dangerous toys from TIE’s exercise are, in June 2020, still on three of the four marketplaces – albeit by other sellers.

Our conclusion is firm: EU policy makers must specify that online marketplaces are importers or distributors of toys – and set similar responsibilities for them. There are clear responsibilities for importers and distributors in EU and national legislation. This can be done through the revision of the Blue Guide on EU Product Rules and the Guidelines for Article 4 of Regulation (EU) 2019/1020 on market surveillance and compliance of products.

However, since the rules are not clear-cut on this, we believe the Digital Services Act and the revision of the General Product Safety Directive should provide further clarity. The new and revised rules must make sure online marketplaces are required to:

  • prevent dangerous toys to be offered for sale on their platforms (proactive measures)
  • react effectively when unsafe toys are discovered (reactive actions), including:
    • Operate a ‘notice, take-down & stay-down’ policy’.
    • Recall unsafe products and inform consumers.
    • Cooperate with and inform Market Surveillance Authorities.
  • screen toy sellers and collect verified contact information (traceability requirements)

Read the Executive Summary of “EU Toy Safety: the problem of unreputable sellers on online marketplaces