Parents who buy a child car seat without going into a store to get the right advice and a safety demonstration could be putting their children at risk, new consumer research has found. WhatCar.com found that 80% of major retail chains selling child car seats have trained experts in-store who can advise on the most suitable seat to buy and demonstrate how to fit the seat safely. However, buying online, second-hand or from catalogue or warehouse retailers such as Argos could result in the wrong products being bought and seats being fitted dangerously. According to the results of a WhatCar.com mystery shop, Argos had a wide range of car seats on sale but its staff were unable to advise on the suitability of its products for either the customer’s vehicle or child, nor were they able to demonstrate how to fit the seats safely. In contrast, specialist retailers like Mamas & Papas and Mothercare had experts on hand to give advice and demonstrations, as well as a free car seat fitting service. Mamas & Papas even has an online booking system to schedule some time with its in-store experts. “The nature of stores like Argos means that, while they sell a very wide range of different products in general, staff cannot be expected to give expert advice on even safety-critical products,” the Editorial Director of WhatCar.com, Jim Holder, said. He added: “There is a wide range of seats available and few parents really understand their categorisation. Furthermore, with the new European safety regulation, i-Size, coming into force at some stage in the future, the decision-making process is about to become even more clouded. “With that in mind, it will be even more important to take the time to make the right choice. That means going into the best specialist retailers, spending time with their trained staff to get the best advice and trying the seats out in your own car yourself, rather than relying on catalogue descriptions or online reviews.” The i-Size regulation will set out the criteria a seat must adhere to before it can go on sale and will also classify car seats by a child’s height rather than weight, to avoid the common problem of parents moving children too soon from rear-facing infant seats to forward-facing ones.
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