Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Do you know what you are buying?

Increasing evidence shows that the number of counterfeit seats and non-regulation seats are appearing on the market and unsuspecting parents are unwittingly buying into the ‘bargain’, unaware that they are putting their child’s life at risk.

The European Crash Test Standard for child restraints was introduced in 1982 and the orange label affixed to all car seats (actually a certificate) will have ECE RR 44 on it. Currently, the standard is 44/04 and any seats made before 1995 (44/01 and 44/02) are now illegal to use as they are not safe enough.

All car seats sold in the UK must meet EU regulation 44/04. This ensures that the seat is tested under crash conditions and is found to be reliable i.e. it doesn't just fall apart under impact, and that it does its job. Each
seat which passes this is awarded an orange sticker notifying the consumer that it is indeed ‘crash-ready’.

Explanation of the ECE-label 

  1. Indicates for which category the child seat has been approved. 
  2. Indicates for which Group by weight the seat is approved.
  3. "Y" shows that this child seat has a 5-point harness system with crotch strap 
  4. European Approval indicator 
  5. Indicates the country in which the approval was obtained (1=Germany, 2=France, 3=Italy, 4=the Netherlands etc.) 
  6. Approval number. The first two numbers show to which version ECE R 44 the child seat has been approved in this case ECE R 44/04.
  7. Is the ‘control’ number allocated to a specific seat. 

(From http://www.incarsafetycentre.co.uk/technical-european-regulations.html)

Many counterfeit seats and cheaper budget seats may not meet the safety requirements as deemed by law and thus do not have a certificate. Some counterfeit seats may also have older labels or ones which do not make any sense due to also being fake. When buying a seat, you should always make sure that there is a certificate on it.

Another indicator which can show the seat not being ‘real’ is that the user guide or instructions are in poor English, or there is hardly any English on them at all. This would suggest that the car seat was not made for the UK market and has simply been imported. A seat like this would not meet the high safety standards here in the UK and so would not only be illegal but could even add risk.

This video from the TRL shows what happens to a fake car seat in a crash test.

The same applies to second- hand seats. There is risk in buying a seat like this because you don’t know the history, i.e. has it been involved in an accident, but also because little fingers have a habit of picking and peeling labels off. How could you be sure that a car seat without labels had them to start with?

My advice would, as always, do your research into the seat itself and choose it on its merits and whether it is safe for your child. Don’t be drawn in by cheap, bargain seats. Choose from a reputable manufacturer and have it fitted to ensure complete safety.

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