Scots firm creates tech to identify fake toys online

A Scottish firm has teamed up with the British Toy and Hobby Association to help stamp out the sale of dangerous toys available from online marketplaces.

Vistalworks has developed technology that provides consumers with advice and warnings when the URL of an item is entered, with the tool now embedded on the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) website.

The move comes weeks after the association released figures showing that six in 10 toys being sold via third-party sellers on online marketplaces are a safety hazard for children.

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The report found that 60 per cent of toys being sold via third-party sellers on online marketplaces had serious safety failures when they tested them. Meanwhile, 86 per cent were illegal to sell in the UK.

Counterfeit and untested non-branded toys are often made with toxic materials, removal batteries and other unsafe parts that can easily be pulled off and accidentally swallowed.

Daryl McKelvie-Whyte, marketing and content executive with Glasgow-based Vistalworks, said: “Online marketplaces can be great for finding a bargain, but it can be extremely difficult to tell the real from the fake when shopping online.

“We have used our expertise in data and online technology to develop this tool that gives consumers confidence online this Christmas. If the deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Our advice is to check for compliance and quality symbols and examine photos of the toys closely.”

She added: “We are delighted to be working with the BTHA to help give shoppers the confidence that the gifts they are buying this Christmas are safe.”

The technology allows consumers to enter a web link for a product fro eBay or Amazon into its tool, which then flags if a product is likely to be a fake.

Natasha Crookes, director of public affairs and communications with the British Toy and Hobby Association, said: “Most toys on the market this Christmas are safe for children to play with. Make sure you buy from a trusted brand or retailer to stay safe. If you are shopping online take more care when purchasing from unknown websites and particularly when purchasing from third-party sellers via online platforms.

“If in doubt use the Vistalworks checker or head to a reputable retailer so your children can enjoy the gift of safe play this Christmas.”

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Dangerous toys are being sold on online marketplaces

The BTHA said that even when products are reported and delisted by the platforms, seemingly identical products continue to be sold. It described trying to remove unsafe products as “like playing wack-a-mole”. Faults it found in toys sold on online marketplaces include access to small batteries that burn the oesophagus if swallowed, use of restricted chemicals, small parts which are a choke risk, the use of long chords with their increased risk of strangulation and magnets which are extremely harmful if ingested.

Vistalworks’ co-founder and chief executive is Vicky Brock, the serial entrepreneur behind Clear Returns. Earlier this year, Vistalworks was selected for the UK’s financial technology growth programme to help secure the country’s position as a world-leader in the sector. It has also secured a deal with the Lithuanian government to crack down on illicit trade.

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