We want to stop the sale of unsafe toys from third-party sellers via online marketplaces

Read Becca’s Story

Last Christmas Sam McCarthy brought a present from a third-party seller on a well-known marketplace for her eldest son which nearly killed her 3-year old daughter, Rebecca.


Freddie, 10 got swept up in the magnetic ball craze and was absolutely thrilled to find three packets of them when he unwrapped his gifts on Christmas Day. But the festive fun quickly turned into a nightmare.

On the 28th January, Rebecca started to vomit and clutch her stomach repeating a word that the family had never heard her say before: “Owie.” Her symptoms grew increasingly worse and she was rushed straight into examination at her local hospital.

X-rays were taken and to to the family’s horror, they revealed that 14 miniature magnets were lodged inside Rebecca’s intestines. They had to be removed immediately and Rebecca was rushed to Royal London Hospital for emergency surgery.

Sam and her husband Steven, were warned that Rebecca could lose all or part of her intestines, depending on the damage caused. Sam says those two hours in surgery were the worst hours of their lives. They didn’t know if Rebecca was going to survive.

Eventually the surgeon returned with a pot containing the 14 multi-coloured magnets that they had successfully removed from Rebecca’s body. Those magnets had managed to burst through and rupture three parts of Rebecca’s intestines. She was lucky to be alive.

But Rebecca is not fully out of the woods yet. Her scar tissue from surgery could tear and the family has been warned to closely watch out for any recurring sickness.

“I would hate for any other child to go through what Becca suffered because of buying dangerous toys via online marketplaces. The government needs to take action, the law urgently needs to change and online marketplaces need to be held accountable for the products they sell. This is why I'm so committed to supporting the BTHA's campaign - to bring about more robust product safety laws so that no more harm will come to another child. That is why our family is committed to supporting the BTHA's campaign – to bring about tougher product safety laws for marketplace sellers and platforms before a child dies and many more are critically injured.”

Sam McCarthyBecca's Mum

Top 3 unsafe toys found in our report

Baztoy Flying Ball, Kids Toys Remote Control Helicopter Mini Drone Magic

Found on: AMAZON

The Dangers

This small electrical helicopter has a battery compartment that is too easy to access, exposing button cell batteries under a drop test. These are extremely dangerous when swallowed and can inflict long-term harm to children, causing burns and skin damage that require surgery to repair.

Soft Interactive Baby Dolls

Found on: EBAY

The Dangers

These small dolls contain a restricted chemical, a phthalate called DEHP, which has been restricted in the EU for many years due to long term chronic effects on human health. The phthalate is extractable from the plastic when the toy is licked and chewed – and young children commonly put soft toy materials in their mouths.

The limit for DEHP is 0.1%. The levels in these toys were 36.41%, suggesting deliberate use. It does not carry suitable traceability markings (address) or conformity markings (CE mark).

Kids magnetic fishing toy set


The Dangers

This fishing game contains small parts but does not warn consumers to keep the toy away from children under three years old. It contains magnets that can break away below the permitted strength and become small parts.

These magnets are strong magnets, which, if swallowed, can link in a child’s body causing colon damage and possibly blood poisoning. Fatalities have been linked to strong magnets.

Top Tips for consumers when buying toys online

Do some research before you purchase

Search for the company/brand that makes the toy or character you want to buy and then include the company name when you search the online marketplace.

Research the toy

Make sure it has not been recalled and look to make sure there are no news stories about safety concerns

Exercise caution when buying from third-party sellers on online marketplaces

All the toys which were non- compliant with the Toy Safety Directive in our study came from third-party sellers. They are often not held accountable for the safety of the products they sell in the same way as UK brands and bricks-and-mortar / direct online retailers and shops. (Third-party sellers are the sellers behind the main branded website). Do not assume that the platform has conducted any tests or checks on these lines.

Look at reviews and be aware of who you are really buying from

  • Some reviews are false and generated by computers. Check all reviews particularly the not so good ones that may be more likely to be genuine.
  • Do they have a track record of selling toys? – if not, be cautious.
  • Do they have good reviews for the toys they have sold in the past? – if not, be cautious.
  • Do they have a UK/EU address listed on the site?
    if not, you should question your purchase; you may have difficulty contacting anybody if you have problems and having a UK/EU address is currently a legal requirement to sell toys in the UK. If the seller doesn’t know this, what else didn’t they know when making the toy you are about to buy?

Be careful of going for the lowest price

If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. The price could be lower due to a number of factors;

  • Counterfeit product – not made to the same standards as the original and will be illegal for sale in the UK and may also have the issues below.
  • Cheaper material and design that is less durable or unsafe, e.g. high levels of restricted chemicals.
  • Correct legal testing and assessments of products is very expensive and means genuinely safe products can cost more to manufacture.

Buy from BTHA Members

Buy from BTHA members.  Members sign up to an annual code of practice including commitments on toy safety and toys may carry the Lion Mark symbol to denote they are members. In our study no genuine member product failed any of our safety testing. A number of counterfeit products were identified and our members have reported those to the platforms for removal.

Spot a counterfeit

To spot a counterfeit, look out for a product that is cheaper than normal, know who owns the brand and look for their name on the packaging, look for phrases like “compatible with (brand name)”, these are often made to look like the original but will not be genuine.

Check your confirmation receipt

Once you have made your purchase, immediately check your confirmation receipt. Check the source of the product is who you thought you had bought from. If you have bought from a third-party it will be listed on this receipt.

Make checks before giving to a child

When you receive your purchase, and importantly, before you give it to your child –

  • Check it has an EU address.
  • Check it has a CE mark.
  • Check the age labelling is appropriate for the age
    of the child that it is for, as we found in our study small parts that could be a choking hazard for young children that were incorrectly labelled as not suitable for under 3 years.
  • Check it has relevant warnings (e.g. toys not for babies should state “not suitable for under 3’s” (or the equivalent symbol).
  • Packaging generally – does it look genuine, is the print correct, are warnings and labels in the correct language, etc?
  • Many illegal toys we purchased were delivered without any packaging or information at all which means there is no address to contact and no warnings that may be critical for safe play.
    • If any of these cause doubt or are missing, it is more likely that the toy is at risk of being illegal or unsafe, we would recommend you return it.

Is it as expected?

When you give the toy to your child make sure you watch them open it and the toy inside is as expected, look out for small parts that were not meant to be there, that there is no access to stuffing materials, that batteries are not supplied loose in the product, that battery compartments are secure when using small batteries or button cells and be careful with small accessible magnets which can be swallowed.

Make sure the toy is appropriate for your child

Some products we purchased were listed as toys but were actually for adults (collectible toys or ornaments) these items do not have to comply with toy standards, be careful and make sure the toy is appropriate for your child.

Supervise your child during the initial play

Many of the illegal toys we found broke very quickly releasing dangerous small parts or gel contents.

What to do if you think your toy is unsafe

If you think the toy you have bought is unsafe or illegal write a review to warn other purchasers and talk to your local Trading Standards


Help us stop the sale of dangerous toys from third-party sellers via online marketplaces

Why sign?

The BTHA has been reporting on the sale of unsafe toys from third-party sellers for three years. We need your help to make the government take action NOW. Most of the toys you can buy in the UK are safe. But don’t let another child get hurt by a toy that shouldn’t be for sale as it is illegal. Sign our petition now to change the law and protect UK children.