Retailers failing to give correct child seat advice

12.00 | 11 May 2015 | | 16 comments

53 out of 82 shops run by well-known national chains and independent retailers selling child safety seats did not give the correct advice to mystery shoppers, according to data published today by Good Egg Safety.

Good Egg Safety says staff in the majority of stores “did not ask the basic information” to ensure a safe fit of the seats they were selling, and points out that a seat will not perform as it is designed to do in a collision if incorrectly installed, or if it doesn’t fit the child or car it is purchased for.

The findings have been unveiled as Good Egg Safety launches a new advert which uses imagery of a child safely transported in the womb to inspire parents to safely transport their children.

Jan James, chief executive of Good Egg Safety, said: “We’ve checked over 21,000 child car seats since 2002, and have found a 43% growth in incorrect fitment or incompatibility in the last five years, which is a major concern.

“Last year alone we discovered that 67% of seats were incorrectly fitted across the UK. These seats will provide reduced or possibly no protection in the event of a collision. There’s clearly a correlation here between incorrect fitting and substandard retailer fitting advice and this has to be addressed.”

Honor Byford, Chair of Road Safety GB said: “This is very timely – just as families are taking more day trips and planning their holidays, checking the children’s car seats also needs to be on every parents “to do” list.

“We know from the many enquiries that we receive from parents that they find the multitude of different car seats and types of fittings very worrying. Parents, and grandparents, are relying on retailers to give them the best advice and service.

“Car seat retailers should be parents’ safety partners in keeping children safe when they are travelling in cars. This is a big responsibility but it is one that retailers can achieve.”

Tanya Robinson, child safety centre manager at TRL, said: “TRL continues to contribute to the development of the safety performance of child car seats. However, this work will not achieve its goals if those using the car seats are not provided with adequate guidance on how to choose an appropriate child seat, and do not understand how to fit and use them correctly.

“That is why we are working with Good Egg Safety to understand the common errors made by parents, grandparents and carers and to provide training for retailers.”

The Mystery Shopped exercise was undertaken by an independent third party agency. A copy of the full report can be obtained from Good Egg Safety.

Good Egg Safety
Good Egg Safety provides information on safe driving for new and older motorists, family cycling, in-car child safety, and in-home child safety.



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    Many parents know they need to have a child car seat fitted by a trained specialist and put a massive amount of faith in the retailer as they feel very unconfident about their own fitting skills and want the very best for their child, what parent wouldn’t.

    So it deeply saddens me when I hear story after story of parents (including myself) being totally misinformed, especially around the Extended Rear Facing side of things and then, not only that, car seats that parents thought were the safest and fitted their vehicle simply aren’t/don’t and their child has been put at risk, unbeknown to the parent.

    I’m unsure if it’s down to ignorance, mis-training, the retailer not wanting to admit they don’t know, that they’re wrong or what! Bottom line, it has to stop! Good Egg, keep up the amazing work.

    Linsey, South Yorkshire.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    The contributions to this thread especially from the users have highlighted one or two key areas of concern that have wider meaning for the entire road safety industry. Here we have tale upon tale of the poor user struggling to make sense of a system that should on the face of it be relatively easy to manage, but in the event turns out to be complicated and dangerous. We have bad design plus a lack of knowledge and understanding from everybody involved coupled with the horrors of compliance which all adds up to a nightmare situation where over half the users are being forced into making errors.

    The pat answer to the problem is of course that someone is to blame for the mess and in this case it is the poor shop assistant on minimum wage that typically gets it in the neck. All sorts of comments about what retailers should do, but absolutely no understanding of why they end up failing in their endeavours to get the job right.

    I have spent a bit of time studying the car seat manufacturers and suppliers (confusing), the advice websites (confusing) and the regulations (confusing) and I can safely conclude that I am more confused now than I was when I started. If I was a shop assistant I would probably find it easier to understand sub-atomic physics than I would how to select and fit a car seat correctly. This leads me to the understanding that the job is really very difficult, very difficult indeed and is not the simple process that everybody expects it to be. Given the complexity of the task and the potential dangers involved I would suggest that a car seat fitter that really knows their stuff would be worth every penny of £60 grand a year maybe even more!

    The problem certainly needs solving that’s for sure, but to do that requires a concerted effort from everybody involved otherwise it will just continue to get worse.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    Hugh raise a very good point.

    We’ve had the pleasure of working closely with education technology specialist, a2om international who are leaders in behaviour based risk management through e-learning. They have created bespoke platforms for some of the biggest companies in the world, including: Shell, Mercedes Benz, Unilever and Michelin.

    a2om consulted with childcare education specialists Norland College and ourselves at Good Egg Safety to create Drive A Child, because in-car safety for little ones is about TWO things: maximising their protection by fitting the right car seat properly and minimizing their risk by avoiding being in a collision in the first place.

    The Drive A Child programme shows parents how to do both – it is an easy-to-use, online e-learning programme which will make every journey that much safer.

    The product is for consumers such as mums, dads, other family members etc. It is also supported by a certificate from Norland College so acts as continuous professional development for childcare professionals.

    It can be found at

    Hope you find it useful.

    Jan James
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    I am a mother of two children but also a rear facing specialist retailer. I set up a company because I was frustrated and disillusioned with the lack of knowledge, not only on the benefits of extended rear facing, but also on child car seats in general in this country.

    Car seats are a safety product, not something to be purchased because it is part of a travel system or because we like the colour but because it will keep our child safe and potentially save their life.

    Before we sell a seat we offer a free consultation to ensure that not only does the seat suit the car, but also the families individual needs. It can be a timely process but one that is critical to ensure the correct seat is purchased. People are often overwhelmed and thankful for the service and I am saddened that this is not more widely available.

    Consumers have a right to demand their seat be fitted into their car but they also have a right to trust that the retailer will do so properly.

    A national campaign is needed to educate parents about the importance of choosing the correct car seat, however this needs to be backed up with trained retailers who can the fulfil this responsibility.

    Our lifestyles have changed, more mums are working which means that child care has become more complex. In turn, car seats and the installation of such need to react to this and be quick and simple to install.

    Jayne Eardley
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    It would be nice to think that the parents who diligently and carefully purchase and fit these seats, apply the same level of diligence and care to their driving once their children are seated in their correctly fitted seats. Unfortunately, I see too many drivers with toddlers on board, tailgating and speeding, seemingly unaware that the risks they are taking are likely to create the collisions which the child seats are supposed to protect their children from in the first place.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    As a mother of 2 children and one of them being just 18 months I have recently experience purchasing my first child car seat and looked in to the second stage car seat.

    When we were having our baby we also changed our family car and wanted to wait until it arrived, so we could have the two different seats we were interested in checked and to make sure they would fit perfectly for our new arrival. On this occasion we were advised in a store that it didn’t matter, they have lists of what car seats fit different makes and model vehicles. One of the managers then carried on and explained that the staff are trained and when baby has arrived we could come back and they will show us correctly how to fit the seat or check the seat is safe.

    Recently we went to the same company, different stor,e just to look in to the second stage car seat and we asked about ERF and forward facing we were advised ERF is expensive and if we have an accident my child may end up with broken legs. When discussing forward facing we asked if one particular seat would fit our car and advised ‘It should do it fits most’.

    The staff member then said ‘your boy is gorgeous but he’s a big boy how much does he weigh? You may be able to miss the second stage and save yourselves some money’. We left that store and won’t be returning.

    This is something that is so important, to me and my children are my life. However, finding the right information on the internet can be very hard unless you have a ‘go to place’ like Good Egg Safety.

    My question is should the blame be put on parents, when you are specifically told staff are trained and these ‘professionals’ are misinforming/selling us products when we believe we have gone to a trained store for advice?

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I agree 100% that the blame for the high rate of unintentional car seat misuse lies firstly with the retailers, and secondly with unclear instruction manuals.

    As a Good Egg Safety expert myself, one thing that parents say to me time and time again is, ‘I had no idea about any of this, none of this was explained to me when I bought the seat.’ And another phrase that I hear regularly is, ‘This has been quite an eye-opener.’

    Just fitting the seat in the car is not enough, and letting people leave the shop with a box in their arms is totally unacceptable. A car seat is a vital piece of safety equipment, and parents/carers need to be taught how to use it correctly. Taught, not shown. There is a big difference.

    One of the most common errors that I see when I check car seats is loose harnesses and incorrect harness height. It doesn’t matter how good a car seat is and how well it is installed in the car, if the child is not restrained correctly, the seat will not do its job in a crash.

    As an independent car seat retailer, I spend at least an hour with each customer. I explain the importance of every aspect of how the seat should be used.

    The people that I see at checking clinics all think that their child is safe. I get very disheartened when people refuse to let me check because ‘It’s fine, I;ve had it fitted by ****.’ Because I know chances are, it’s not fine at all…

    Margaret Bolt, London
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    The issue of incorrect fitting/incompatibility can certainly be caused by a number of factors and we have highlighted these in previous releases/reports. It is fair and frankly essential however, to highlight the retailer advice issue because this is one of our biggest challenges…

    When a parent buys from a retailer it is absolutely fundamental that they are given the correct advice at the point of purchase. I’m sorry to say this is NOT happening and it is therefore entirely fair to draw correlations between this and incorrect usage as a key contributor.

    One of the leading retailers we tested had a 100% failure rate; another had an 80% failure rate. Yet when we see these mums and dads at our national car seat checking events they will often decline and refer to the major branded name that they have TRUSTED to give them the correct advice when often that’s not the case.

    No bloody wonder parents are confused. Yes they need to take responsibility and most in our experience do. Their child is their world.

    This is non negotiable – parents SHOULD receive the CORRECT advice at the point of purchase; many are clearly NOT getting this at present and this is completely unacceptable.

    On a more positive note, we are in direct communication with the CEOs of many of these stores who seem very keen to rectify this as quickly as they can. We will test them again in a few months and report regularly on their progress. Children and babies deserve nothing less.

    Jan James, CEO, Good Egg Safety
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    Isn’t that the nub of the problem David?

    The information is ‘out there’ disconnected from the seat itself rather than being part of the seat’s structure and design. In human factors it’s known as knowledge in the world versus knowledge in the head and knowledge in the world is always better for performing one-time tasks.

    A better understanding of the human and design factors behind the car seat problem can be found in “The Psychology of Everyday Things” by Donald Norman.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    The level of incorrect fitting at public car seat checking events shows there are too many different fittings and too much fiddliness in child car seats. The fact that they don’t transfer from one make or model of car to another confirms that the designs need to be standardised. Parents (and grandparents and carers) should not have to purchase a new car seat(s) every time they change their car.

    That so many parents come to events seeking help and advice shows that they are aware that they may not be fitting the seats as well as they should and that they want to do more to protect their children.

    This is a separate issue from the car seat providers who offer a professional advice and fitting service – and should get it right. I am sure that they want to provide a good service and this mystery shopper survey has provided them with information about how it is (and isn’t) working in practice. Now it’s over to them to make improvements where they are needed. We look forward to reporting on the next survey and the progress we hope it will show.

    Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB
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    In general, my experience of retailers’ advice and fitting is that it is pretty darned good. The problems I see when checking child seats are usually of the parent’s, or carer’s, making. Seats are often removed to be fitted in another car (in which a good fit can never be obtained, because of variations in car design), or they are turned to face forwards, etc. This happens when instruction manuals are lost, and people refer to the usually rather unclear diagrams on the side of the seat, so it is no surprise that mistakes are made.

    The information on correctly fitting seats is out there, but many people think they know exactly how to do it without checking Youtube, websites, etc. What is needed is more exposure to good campaigns (such as the Good Egg Guide). There is improved awareness of ERF, Isofix, I size, etc., compared to a couple of years ago, but we still have some way to go.

    I feel that it is unfair to lay blame on retailers – mostly it is the parents who are at fault.

    David, Suffolk
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    It is true that the fundamental issue here is the variety and complexity of child car seat designs and fittings. Child car seats that use the adult safety belt are a design compromise from the outset. The IsoFix and i-size developments are attempts to introduce standardisation in the design of vehicles to optimise the secure fitting of child car seats. I can’t even tell you how many decades yes, decades, it has taken to obtain this level of agreement between manufacturers.

    None of this alters the fact that companies that sell child car seats and offer fitting advice and expertise need to be delivering what they say they are – correct advice. Parents are reliant on this advice to do right for their children so there is a responsibility for those who profit from the sale of the seats to ensure that the advice they provide is correct.

    Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB
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    Might one enquire what combination of behavioural change techniques (BCT’s) we should employ to solve this particular problem?

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    When you have a system that generates a 67% functional error level then you have got a really fundamental problem. The response to the problem is as always to blame the worker hence the statement “There’s clearly a correlation here between incorrect fitting and substandard retailer fitting advice” rather than attempting to understand what the fundamental problems are and then fixing them!

    Clearly the fundamental problem is rooted in the enormous variability in all of the elements that comprise the child-restraint sub-system allied to the enormous variability in the knowledge and understanding of the people who have to fit them added to the variability in the size, weight and height of the children themselves. In the light of such massive variation it’s surprising that the error level is as low as it actually is. Maybe the entire subject of child restraint has been poorly thought out from the very beginning and needs to be looked at again.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    Thanks so much for your lovely feedback, Lue. It was created by the brilliant team who produced the award winning ’embrace life’ ad and they did a great job. Feedback so far from parents and grandparents has been excellent and it’s available for all RSOs to use in their own areas on web / social media etc to get this message out as widely as possible. Thanks again.

    Jan James Good Egg Safety
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    I think the advert is fantastic – well done to the team that came up with it.

    I recenlty bought a seat for my grand-daughter and as a road safety professional know more than the average Granny about it. The retailer I used gave great advice but because I know about the issues with fitting child car seats I opted for Isofix, rear facing up until 4 years old – perfect for my car. I feel sorry for parents and grand-parents beacuse it is a minefield out there and the Isofix seat is so expensive for new parents to afford. So many seats to choose from!

    Lue Ellis Cheshire West and Chester Council
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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