Watchdog highlights child car seat retailers’ failings

12.00 | 9 October 2015 | | 7 comments

A BBC Watchdog investigation aired on 8 Oct found that out of 50 retail stores visited, only one managed to correctly fit its own brand child car seat.

The programme visited 10 stores belonging to each of the retailers John Lewis, Halfords, Mothercare, Toys ‘R’ Us and Smyths and purchased the company’s basic own brand child seat – and then asked for the seat to be installed using the company’s professional fitting service.

Only one of the stores managed to fit the seat properly, and all five retailers have now promised to review their training procedures.

Watchdog’s expert advisors were Julie Dagnall and Claire Waterhouse of Child Seat Safety, both of whom appeared in the programme. The Transport Research Laboratory was also involved in testing the fitting methods shown in the programme – with alarming results.

Over the last three years Child Seat Safety says it has carried out checks on more than 7,000 child seats and found that 51% were incorrectly fitted. Claire Waterhouse says that parents frequently say the wrongly-installed seat was either fitted by a retailer, or fitted as shown by the retailer. She describes this is “alarming, as we expect the retailers to be experts on the products they are selling”.

Child Seat Safety is campaigning, with the support of Watchdog, to ensure that anyone giving child car seat advice to consumers is properly trained and qualified.

Child Seat Safety delivers a training course, accredited by IOSH (The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health), which is designed to ensure anybody giving advice or fitting child restraints has a standard of knowledge to enable them to fit the restraint correctly, and give advice on the correct restraint the parent should be using.

Julie Dagnall and Claire Waterhouse will present the findings from the Watchdog programme to delegates attending the National Road Safety Conference in Nottingham on 18-19 November.



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    I am a Road Safety Officer and a Consultant in children’s car seat safety working for an independent specialist car seat retailer which has an excellent reputation in the industry. Nothing on this report was surprising. I think there are two big problems with high street retailers: one is that they have a high turnover of staff so keeping everyone trained to the level required is difficult. The training is also car seat manufacturer led – rather than specialist knowledge of what actually happens inside a vehicle during a collision; the second problem is that they are NOT specialist. They sell so many different products that they cannot be expected to be experts in them all.

    Specialist car seat retailers who sell nothing else but car seats have a wider range of products, a good understanding of those products including exactly how to fit them, they are aware of current legislation and developments within the industry and know what happens inside a vehicle during a collision.

    It is time that car seat retailers were required to be licensed to sell car seats. As a parent I always wonder why anyone would go to a toy shop to buy a car seat, which is a life saving device, but people obviously do. If car seat retailers had to be licensed to sell car seats they would be required not only to keep all staff fully trained but would be monitored regularly. And this should be done independently, not in-house.

    Jane McElroy, Road Safety Team, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    If the BBC and in particular, Watchdog, are serious about road safety and want to be self-righteous about others’ failings in road safety, how about telling their producers and directors not to have their presenters and reporters talking side-on to the camera whilst driving? It’s unsafe and unnecessary and sets a bad example.

    Child car seats are a factor in preventing reducing casualty numbers, but they’re not the reason the collision happened in the first place. Not keeping your eyes on the road is near the top of the list.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    We totally agree with you and it requires everyone to join forces and work together to make this happen.

    Good egg safety ( has written to the Transport Minister with support from many of our key partners (including manufacturers) to tackle this head on.
    It requires urgent attention there’s no question.

    We have also launched a national (and internationally recognized) CPD accredited child seat training qualification which we deliver in partnership with TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) and we genuinely hope this will make the difference.

    Jan James CEO Good Egg Safety
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    This is outrageous – surely there is a requirement for instant intervention from Government and warning to all parents. What should people do – go back to the retailer who failed them to start with?

    Kris Beuret
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Thanks for raising a valid observation, however I can confirm that none of the stores visited or the staff shown in the footage have received any training from Child Seat Safety.

    We have trained a small group of their staff very recently as part of a ‘train the trainer’ program that Toys R Us are implementing, but this was only a few weeks prior to the filming.

    We had no involvement in the selecting of stores visited, our role was simply to verify the seat fitting footage from the secret filming.

    Therefore your observation highlights the fact that we must strive to ensure all staff are suitably educated.

    Child Seat Safety have trained over 400 accredited advisors, whose details can be found on our website and we believe it is essential that we continue to work with anyone who advises on child restraints to ensure that the correct information is provided.

    Claire Waterhouse
    Director – Child Seat Safety
    Mobile – 07952 898 895

    Claire Waterhouse, Leyland
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    Interesting that the Watchdog experts actually run a training a course that trained the toys r us fitters.

    Michael, London
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    Surely the “industry” would have known the way that its products were being mis-sold and misused for some time. One has to ask why it takes a program like Watchdog to bring it to the attention of the public and call the industry to account.

    Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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