Parents are being warned to look out for fake and potentially dangerous versions of popular children’s toys that are being sold online, as they could contain toxic chemicals.
Counterfeit versions of L.O.L Surprise! Dolls, which were one of the ‘must-have’ toys for Christmas last year, have been found to contain the harmful chemical phthalates.
Dangerous counterfeit toys
More than 4.2 million counterfeit products worth £21million were seized by councils’ trading standards teams in 2018/19, according to latest industry figures.
Fake versions of the L.O.L Surprise! Dolls were among those seized, having been found to contain phthalates, a chemical that can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system.
More than 54,000 unsafe teddy bears were also taken by councils, as they posed a choking hazard to young children.
The bears had no CE mark and the labelling was in Chinese only, with the product containing no batch or serial number, and no manufacturer of importer information.
Almost 9,000 items were also seized by Manchester City Council officers, with unsafe goods including counterfeit versions of Marvel, Lego and Disney toys, some of which posed a choking risk to small children.
The company was prosecuted and ordered to pay a total of £9,728.
Advice for parents
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, has warned that fake and potentially dangerous products typically flood the market during the Christmas period, as criminals look to exploit the surge in demand for sold-out items.
The LGA is urging people to be vigilant when shopping, advising shoppers to be wary of online sellers.
Shoppers are advised to look for the authentic CE mark on toys or the packaging, which confirms the product meets consumer safety standards.
The LGA is also calling for the CE mark to be clearly included in product descriptions on websites offering toys for sale, as more counterfeit versions are appearing online.
Councillor Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, told The Mirror: “Christmas is a hotbed for criminals who put profit before safety by selling dangerous, counterfeit toys at cheap prices to unsuspecting shoppers.
“Bargain hunters need to be aware that fake, substandard toys can break and cause injuries or pose choking hazards, toxic materials can cause burns and serious harm, while illegal electrical toys can lead to fires or electrocution.
“It’s not unusual for rogue sellers to cash in on desperate shoppers by selling fake versions of ‘must-have’ toys sold out in well-known retailers, or claim to have them in stock on their website when they actually don’t exist.”
If you have any information about suspected counterfeit products, you can report it to your local council via the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.