Children could be at risk from poor advice from retailers selling car seats
The advice being provided to parents by leading retailers is putting children’s lives are at risk, warns new research.
In the investigation, it found that nine out of 10 retailers who sold children’s car seats had failed to ask customers “crucial” questions when choosing an appropriate seat for their child.
According to the Which? investigation retailers John Lewis and Mamas and Papas were the worst performers scoring a shocking 100 per cent fail rate.
None of the stores visited in the mystery shopper test asked all the relevant safety questions when giving advice on which child seat to buy for a nine-month-old baby.
The investigation saw mystery shoppers posing as customers wanting to upgrade a baby car seat for a nine-month-old baby weighing 20lb (nine kilo) and were sent to more than 200 stores that sell kiddie car seats.
To be able to pass all the relevant criteria and for customers to be advised safely, sales assistants were required to ask a series of questions including the age, weight, and height of the child.
Nikki Stopford, Which? research and publishing director, said: “This is another disappointingly poor service from retailers who previously promised to improve the quality of safety advice they give to customers shopping for child car seats.
“Retailers have told us that staff are trained to the highest standards.
“This alone clearly isn’t working so retailers must urgently introduce checklists to make sure staff are asking all the important safety questions when advising customers.”
Retailers were marked with a ‘fail’ if a relevant question wasn’t asked or if there was a lack of understanding of the topic at hand or any demonstration of why a question didn’t need to be asked.
Almost a quarter of stores (23 per cent) did not offer fitting demonstrations and almost a fifth (18 per cent) of staff failed to ask the all-important question that would enable them to recommend the safest product – what vehicle the car seat would be used in.
Nikki said: “Child car seats should be fitted to a child’s height and weight rather than just using age.
No retailer offered all the relevant and required advice and guidance
“Yet, in 95 per cent of the store visits, sales assistants only asked about the child’s age, which is not always the best indicator of a child’s size.
“A key follow-up question is whether the car seat would also be used in another car, but, in 54 per cent of visits retail staff did not ask about this.”
Smyths Toys scored a 94 per cent fail rate followed by Motorcare with a 90 per cent fail rate.
On the other end of the scale was Halfords, who was the best performer with 38 per cent of sales assistants in its Scottish branches asking all the relevant questions.
However, the retailer also scored a high overall fail rate of 83 per cent, with only two of its 52 English stores successfully asking all relevant safety questions.
A John Lewis spokesperson said: “We treat the selling of car seats with the utmost seriousness and have invested significant resource and training in this area to get it right for our customers.
“We ensure every nursery Partner attends and passes a two-day car seat training course, independently run by the leading car seat training provider in the UK.”
Sales assistants at some John Lewis branches only missed a few crucial safety questions and scored between 80 and 91 per cent whereas only one Mamas and Papas store scored more than 80 per cent.
Nine out of 10 retailers who sold child car seats had failed to ask customers “crucial” questions
A Mamas and Papas spokesperson said: “Because car seat safety is so important to us, every Mamas & Papas store has an IOSH-accredited car seat expert and all colleagues are trained to follow a comprehensive check list during the sale process.”
A Halfords spokesperson said: “At Halfords we take the safety of children very seriously.
“Whilst concerned to see the results, we don’t feel they represent our high levels of training, which have been developed in partnership with car seat manufacturers.”
All three of the major retailers have asked Which? experts for further information about the investigation results to help improve their services.
The investigation found independent stores were better at giving safety advice than most major car seat retailers with a 90 per cent fail rate.