Illegal, potentially unsafe toys find their way into marketplaces and from there to our homes. They may seem harmless but they can pose serious health risks.
Counterfeit toys are unregulated and do not comply with the applicable safety standards and regulations. And it is not only toys. Children’s products, such as school supplies and children’s jewelry, can also be harmful.
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Illicit toys mislead consumers
Illicit toys include counterfeit products, which mislead consumers to believe they are genuine products, when in fact they are fakes. Trademark infringing products use confusingly similar names or marks as another company.
Knock-off products imitate the appearance of other products but do not copy the name or trademark. They all mislead consumers who are often unaware of the dangers they may pose.
Non-compliant and unsafe toys online
Illicit, unsafe toys are everywhere, and too many are offered on online platforms. Such toys are unregulated and do not comply with the safety standards and regulations for toys in the U.S., European Union (EU), and many other jurisdictions around the world. In the U.S., for example, there are more than 100 tests and requirements to ensure safety.
In 2020, Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) assessed 193 non-branded toys for compliance with the EU toy safety standard. 97% (!) were non-compliant and therefore illegal in the EU.
We know that they are too many bad actors online who sell unsafe and non-compliant toys. Although platforms such as Amazon require all products to comply with applicable laws and regulations, if products do not have testing and certification to ensure safety, consumers cannot know if they are safe.
The dangers of counterfeit toys
Magnetic putty is a putty with small magnets that attract or repel. Federal toy safety standards prohibit the use of magnets that are small and powerful in toys intended for children under 14 because a child could swallow them. Yet, many online listings for “toys” promote products to children that include such magnets.
In an October 2020 survey, The Toy Association found them on Alibaba, Amazon and Walmart e-commerce platforms.
Let’s take a look at some of the common dangers of non-compliant toys.
(1) Substandard quality
Fake toys are often of substandard quality. A tragic example is of a 4-year-old boy in the U.S. who played with magnetic building blocks. He broke the blocks and swallowed several magnets. The magnets left holes in his stomach, resulting in hospitalization and surgery. The toy magnets looked like Magformers, a brand that sells children magnets. In reality, they were knock-offs sold by another company, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
(2) Choking hazard
Size is closely is related to safety when it comes to children, and broken toys may also create a choking hazard. Safety experts in the UK destroyed teddy bears because the eyes and button noses could come loose and choke a child.
Another significant concern is toxicity. There is a danger in children’s products, such as toys and school supplies, containing lead, cadmium, and other toxic chemicals that can be harmful to children. The Wall Street Journal ordered 10 toys from Amazon and sent them to a certified lab for testing.
Four failed. It also talked with the Office of the Attorney General Washington State. They have tested about 100 products, including children’s school supplies and jewelry sold on the Amazon marketplace. More than half (!) were found to have illegal levels of toxic metals.
One of the most common toxic metals is lead. Lead exposure can cause various health problems in children, including damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, and more.
In the UK, fake Frozen II dolls have been found to contain phthalates – a banned chemical plastic softener. Phthalates can leak over time and have harmful effects, especially for children who tend to put things in their mouths.
The chemical has been linked to asthma, allergies, and other health problems. One of the seized dolls had an electronic ‘voice box’ with an easily removable battery that could be a choking hazard.
(4) Electric shocks and burns
Electric toys raise yet another concern. According to the CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission), possible dangers include electric shock and burns. Popular 3D printing pens heat and melt plastics so their tips get very hot.
Online marketplaces have listings of the popular pens, many of which do not comply with safety regulations.
Online increase in fake toys
The rise in online shopping has seen an increase in illegal consumer goods, toys included. This is especially scary when it comes to what children play with. The quantity of Illicit toys on online platforms is overwhelming. They can be found on various marketplaces and social media e-commerce platforms.
The increase in counterfeit and otherwise illicit toys sold via online marketplaces is contributed to various factors. The Toy Association identified three main factors:
(1) Insufficient vetting by marketplaces of both sellers and products
(2) A burden of enforcement that is disproportionately placed on the IP rights holders
(3) Consumers who unknowingly purchase these illicit products knot realizing they do not have the same standards as legitimate toys
Imported counterfeit toys
Although we focus here on the online sale of fake toys, the issue is not limited to online platforms.
Toys are one of the top categories of counterfeit products seized by customs in the EU and are widespread in the US. Just recently, nearly $1.3 million in counterfeit toys were seized in NY.
Customs and Border Protection officers found more than 141,000 UNO card games 9,600 LOL Surprise! Under Wraps balls, and nearly 2,000 LOL Surprise! Under Wraps capsule toys.
In the UK, counterfeit versions of toys, including the LOL Surprise! Dolls have been found to contain phthalates, a toxic chemical that can harm the body.
Children’s toys should be about joy, discovery, and exploration.
Choosing toys for our children, we should have a safety-first approach to protect them. The issue of children safety places a heavier burden on toy companies to fight counterfeits. We expect toy companies to be concerned with our children’s safety.
But the question is not only ethical, but it is also practical. Toy companies build consumer trust. If consumers feel that a brand or a toy has many counterfeits, it may make them more likely to buy a toy that they feel is less counterfeited and therefore safer.
Wiser online brand protection solution for toys
We do not want to put our children at risk. Counterfeit toys do exactly that. They are not safe, they are illegal, and should not be sold in physical stores or online.
Toy companies who wish to avoid the risks and the negative coverage should address the issue of counterfeits.
Wiser Market online brand protection agency helps toy brands and other legitimate children’s products manufacturers to combat the sale of counterfeit products.
We use our advanced monitoring system and proprietary algorithm to detect fakes and other IP infringements. Detection is followed by analysis to construct the best means for counterfeit removal and elimination. We monitor continuously, so when previously removed products or sellers reappear, we immediately remove them, even if they change their names, the images they use etc.
Our team of brand protection analysts has years of experience protecting online intellectual property from brand abuse. We provide exceptional customer service and are proud to deliver unrivaled results at attractive costs.
As a leading online brand protection agency, Wiser Market offers a 360° solution. We protect children, and we believe it is the best way to protect your business, revenue, and reputation.
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