Consumer: Shocking findings over child car seats

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Retail staff have a potentially dangerous lack of knowledge about fitting the child car seats they are selling.

is your child’s car seat properly fitted? And were you given the correct installation advice when you bought it?

According to a major new consumer study, retailers are making potentially dangerous mistakes when installing child car seats, with even the best failing two-thirds of fittings.

An undercover investigation by consumer campaign group Which? found that a staggering 90 per cent of the stores it visited failed to fit the car seats correctly.

Experts from the group visited 42 different stores across the UK and asked staff to fit two different car seats.

Just four of those tested managed to fit both properly while 13 failed to ask any essential questions beforehand.

The watchdog said the retailers Babies R Us and Mamas & Papas each failed 11 of the 12 fittings with “a catalogue of mistakes”. Kiddicare failed nine fittings.

Some of the errors included fitting the seat with the support leg - an important safety feature - still folded under the base of the seat, making it unstable. Another gaffe saw a seat not attached to the car securely enough because the fitter did not know how to install it properly using the seat belt.

Which? said all the stores it visited had room to improve, with Halfords managing just two successful fittings, Mothercare three and John Lewis - the best of the major retailers - failing two-thirds of its installations.

Independent stores did slightly better and achieved the most successful fittings - seven out of 12. But the Which? experts still thought their advice was not as comprehensive as it should have been.

The consumer group said the majority of staff it saw did not spend enough time fitting and explaining how to use the car seats.

Some fitters blamed the products for being “broken”. But “it was clear to our experts that their failings were often down to a lack of training”, it said.

Which? editor Richard Headland said: “It’s unacceptable that retailers are providing such shockingly poor fitting services, which could potentially be putting children at risk.

“We have given our findings to the retailers and urged them to improve their staff training and knowledge of child car seats so they offer the correct advice every time.

“Parents should be able to trust the advice they get from major retailers.”

Mamas & Papas told Which? it had worked “incredibly hard” to educate staff about car seat safety and was disappointed with the findings. It said the results highlighted inconsistencies in advice provided to retailers by a number of bodies. The store’s representatives said there was an opportunity for retailers, car seat brands, the Government and Which? to collaborate.

Babies R Us said it would build and strengthen training and support for car seat safety fittings to improve the “disappointing” results. Kiddicare said it was investigating and would take corrective action where required.

John Lewis said car seat fitting was mandatory training but it would ensure points raised were reflected in training. And Halfords told the research team it had accredited fitting courses with annual refreshers and was confident it had “substantially improved” the customer experience.

It’s not just retailers who need to brush up on their car seat fitting knowledge.

Consumerwatch reported recently that more than a quarter of parents are installing child car seats incorrectly, something which is contributing to car accidents remaining the leading cause of child fatalities in the country and across Europe.

Figures released by Good Egg Safety showed a 13 per cent rise in badly fitted child car seats from 2010 to 2013. A recent EU study into child deaths relating to car seats also found that 17 per cent of those that died were being transported in incorrectly installed car seats.

Andrew Ratclife, managing director of car seat makers Maxi-Cosi UK, said: “The correct fitting of car seats is absolutely vital to the safety of your child while travelling by car”.


New European safety regulation addresses major factors that currently contribute to the weekly toll on Europe’s roads of 10 child deaths and 1,150 injuries.

The changes include a mandatory up to 15 months age for rear-facing car seats, special fittings in cars and improved side impact rules.

The incorrect or non-use of child restraint systems is a major threat to children travelling in cars. It is estimated that two thirds of children are not properly restrained.

PIC: Simon Hulme

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