We all like to hunt for the best deals and discounts, and right now it’s even more important to make our money go further. But when you spot an amazing bargain online, it’s vital to question whether that deal really is too good to be true, especially with toys.

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According to the Government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO), in 2017 it was reported 10-12% of all toys sold in the UK were, in fact, fake. Fake – or counterfeit – toys may look like the real thing and be much cheaper, which can be tempting when you’re facing a tough financial time, but they can also be dangerous and even cause harm.

A fake toy or game could expose children to potentially toxic chemicals, for example, or feature small, poorly made parts that could easily break and be a choking hazard.

In 2017, it was reported 10-12% of all toys sold in the UK were, in fact, fake
– Intellectual Property Office

To ensure you can be confident about the toys you buy, the British Toy & Hobby Association (BHTA) has step-by-step advice on what to look for before and after buying.

BEFORE YOU BUY

Damaged teddy bear
  • Research before you buy – Search for the company/brand that makes the toy or game you want to buy and then search for the product. Check to see the toy hasn’t been recalled and look for any news stories about safety concerns.
  • Check out the seller – If you’re buying from an online marketplace, there are lots of different sellers behind the main branded website, so find out who you’re buying from. Take additional care with 3rd-party sellers as they often aren’t held as accountable for their product safety as established toy retailers.
    • Look at reviews of the seller and the products they sell. Remember, not all reviews are genuine, so look out for a mix of reviews, especially not-so-good ones as these are more likely to be genuine
    • See if they have a track record for selling toys – if not, be wary
    • Check if they have a UK/EU address listed. This is currently a legal requirement to sell toys here, so not only are they operating illegally, but you may also have difficulty contacting them if you have a problem
    • Do images of any children playing with the toy match the age suitability requirements on the packaging
  • Is it much cheaper than you’d expect? – Fakes are made to look like the original, so one of the key tell-tale signs of a fake is that it’s cheaper than normal.

To help identify if a cheap toy is fake:

  • Check who owns the brand and look for the brand name/logo on the packaging
  • Look out for phrases like ‘compatible with (brand name)’ – this makes use of a well-known brand name but means it’s not made by that brand
Broken toy car
  • Make sure you buy from British Hobby & Toy Association members – Toy sellers who are association members sign up to an annual code of practice, including commitments to high levels of toy safety. Members may use the BHTA Lion Mark symbol on packaging, which shows they are a member.
 Why the price could be too good to be true
  • If you go for the lowest price, it could mean it’s fake and hasn’t been made to the same standards as the original
  • Cheaper materials and design will mean it’s less durable or unsafe, and it will be illegal to sell in the UK
  • Legal testing and assessments of products are expensive and means genuinely safe products cost more to make

AFTER YOU BUY

A family unwrapping presents
  • Check your receipt – When you make your purchase, immediately check your confirmation receipt to see if the source of the product is who you thought you’d bought from. If you’ve bought from a third-party seller, they will be listed here.
  • Look at the toy before giving it to your child – There are several points to look for:
    • Check the toy has a UKCA mark or CE mark
    • Look to see if there’s a UK or EU address of the toy brand on the packaging
    • Ensure the age labelling is appropriate for the age of your child and that it has relevant age warnings
    • Look at the overall packaging – does it look genuine? Is the print correct?
    • Are warnings and labels in the right language?
    • Is any packaging missing?

If in any doubt about the toy, return the item.

  • Watch your child when first giving them the toy – Observe your child opening it to see if the toy inside is as expected and is safe to unpack:
    • Check for any small parts that aren’t meant to be there
    • Ensure that the stuffing isn’t exposed
    • Look out for any loose batteries or battery compartments that aren’t secure
    • Be careful with any small accessible magnets that could be swallowed
  • Supervise when your child first plays with the toy – A fake toy may break quickly, releasing dangerous small parts or gel contents.
  • Report any toy you think is fake – If you think the toy or game you’ve bought is unsafe or illegal, talk to your local Trading Standards office. You can find yours here. Also, write a review on the site you bought it from to warn other people.
Toy Campaign, Harmful Hattie

What’s the difference between counterfeit and sub-standard toys?

Fake and sub-standard aren’t necessarily the same thing, but they may both feature low quality materials or not meet basic safety requirements, so could be harmful…

Fakes – unauthorised copies of a genuine branded product that don’t comply with product safety and standards. They’re often made with unapproved lower-quality materials, which may be harmful or even life threatening

Sub-standard products – don’t comply with product safety and standards and can be branded or unbranded. Unbranded products may be of a poor standard, as they can be made with lower-quality materials and could pose a safety risk

In the UK, products must comply with the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 and/or with the regulations for specific product types – that includes products made abroad but sold in the UK.

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For more information and advice from the British Toy & Hobby Association, click here

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