Manufacturers who become associated with unsafe and faulty goods will quickly lose the confidence of consumers, who are afraid of damage to their health. Test and quality seals are extremely trusted among German consumers. Quality seals from environmental protection organisations and government institutes are the most trusted.

The market researcher GFK surveyed 1000 Germans about 16 subjects on behalf of the SGS Testing Society. This survey was released in 2016 in the form of the SGS Consumer Study, “Product Safety in Consumer Products”. According to this study, half of the people surveyed had, at least once, decided not to buy a product because it seemed too unsafe. Manufacturers who become associated with unsafe and faulty goods will quickly lose the confidence of consumers, who are afraid of damage to their health.

A seal increases the purchase probability by 4.2%. For 88% of Germans, test institutes like TÜV or Stiftung Warentest ensure product safety and thus guarantee high quality.

Poor experiences with a faulty product put a strain on customer loyalty

On the basis of reports from the European Rapid Alert System (RAPEX), more than 2,000 products were withdrawn from market last year because they pose a risk to the consumer. However, most products were withdrawn due to mechanical defects and the risk of injury. Most Germans believe the responsibility lies primarily with the manufacturer, with the retailer having secondary responsibility.

If consumers have bad experiences with product safety, customer loyalty is often damaged. More than 50% of respondents would stop buying products from the affected manufacturer. As many as 70% of Germans read test reports and experience reports on the Internet before buying. Four out of five rely on recommendations from personal contacts. Therefore, negative headlines regarding product safety can have serious consequences for the affected manufacturer or retailer.


External product inspectors can minimise the risk

Before a children’s product is approved for sale, it is closely scrutinised and checked for mechanical and physical safety, flammability, and chemical ingredients.

The materials used, for example, must not contain hazardous substances such as heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), phthalates, or harmful dyes. Independent laboratories and institutes such as TÜV, Bureau Veritas, Intertek, and SGS carry out tests and check whether existing product safety guidelines have been adhered to during production. The European standard EN71 concerns, for example, toy safety and specifies the required methods for checking whether certain chemical elements can migrate from the material. Among other things, manufacturers must test whether softeners can migrate to the surface of plastics or to surrounding materials.

In 2014, the German Association of Children’s Equipment Manufacturers launched the “Small Heroes Live Safely” initiative. Here, parents can inform themselves online before purchasing a toy. SGS and other laboratories offer services to ensure that toys and other products for children don’t just meet EU directives (e.g. on the use of chemicals, REACH), but also requirements in other countries (e.g. the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in the USA).

All toys sold within the EU must be subject to a safety assessment, including chemical testing, before they can be sold on the market. Risk assessment is carried out by analysing potential hazards associated with toys. The manufacturer must draw up a complete declaration of conformity and refer to all relevant standards such as the EMC Directive, the REACH Regulation.

Many rules and regulations due to the globalisation of toy production and trade

If a toy is to be sold in the EU, the Toys Directive 2009/48 / EC applies. It was published in 2009 and it became law in two phases: in July 2011 with the physical requirements, and in July 2013 with the chemical requirements. SGS and other service providers advise companies on how to comply with these and other guidelines. Since October 2016, for example, a new version of the toy regulation “Standard Consumers Safety Specification for Toy Safety” (ASTM F963-16) has been valid in the USA. In recent years, many toy recalls have been initiated by the authorities in the EU and the USA. Legal regulations and regulations for toys have also been introduced in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Russia, and China.

Through the globalisation of toy production and trade, the issue of product safety is becoming increasingly important internationally. “China was the most important production country for many years,” says toy expert Bernd Jiptner of SGS, a product testing company. “But more and more manufacturers are opening up additional locations in other countries, such as Indonesia or eastern Europe. In addition, more and more retailers and manufacturers want to break into new foreign markets. The Arabian Peninsula, the USA, and even China are interesting destinations for German brands. As an international product tester, we therefore often receive inquiries about country-specific requirements.” For example, the CCC certification required for deliveries of goods to China is an increasingly important issue, where many companies have experienced problems with the procedures. As another recent example, Jiptner mentions the new regulations for the American toy standard ASTM F963.16, which affects many exporters. Here, for example, there are new battery safety requirements, and additional microbiological tests are needed.

Anyone familiar with American liability laws in terms of consumer protection knows that a small production error can lead to claims for millions of dollars of damages.

In conclusion: When purchasing toys and other children’s products such as pushchairs and child car seats, German and foreign consumers will not tolerate safety defects. If these do arise, the affected manufacturers and retailers may face damages and losses of millions of dollars.

Image: HABA, Klang