Many large stores are failing to fit child car seats correctly, potentially putting children in danger, according to consumer charity Which?.
Research discovered that staff at some stores which offer free child car seat fitting services, are making “serious failings” when it comes to installing car seats.
Undercover researchers visited 42 stores belonging to seven retailers to get two different child seats fitted; only four managed to fit both child seats correctly – with 90 per cent failing to fit both seats safely in a standard family car.
The stores that performed worst in this investigation include Mamas & Papas and Babies R Us, which both fitted just one out of 12 car seats correctly. Kiddicare only managed to fit three out of 12 seats properly. Stores made “potentially dangerous mistakes that could put lives at risk”, Which? claimed, with 13 failing to ask any essential pre-sale questions before fitting seats.
“It’s unacceptable that retailers are providing such shockingly poor fitting services, which could potentially be putting children at risk."
Mistakes included staff failing to fit seats securely enough or placing support legs on underfloor storage compartment covers – which could be dangerous in the event of a crash. Researchers found that some shop assistants also issued bad advice to parents. Following these findings Which? has sent detailed information to retailers to address safety concerns.
Halfords, and Mothercare also performed poorly. John Lewis, the best of the large retailers, still failed with two third of fittings. Independent stores however, performed better with the highest number of successful fittings at seven out of 12.
Video footage shows that in some cases staff fitted child seats with support legs folded underneath them, rather than sat firmly in the footwell, drastically reducing the car seat’s stability. In other cases seats were fitted with car headrests left in the way, or with a large gap between the back of the child seat and the car seat.
Which? editor Richard Headland said, “It’s unacceptable that retailers are providing such shockingly poor fitting services, which could potentially be putting children at risk. We have given our findings to the retailers and urged them to improve their staff training and knowledge of child car seats.”
Mamas & Papas has said that it is “extremely committed” to safety and is investigating research results, according to the BBC. “We would urge Which? to return soon and undertake research across more of our stores. We are confident they would discover a much better picture than that published today”, said a company spokesperson.