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IWK warns of bogus car seats sold through Walmart online


Katherine Hutka, a health promotions specialist, poses for a photo with a car seat that was sold online through Walmart. The seat on the left does not meet legal safety requirements On the right is a seat that meets safety requirements. - Ryan Taplin
Katherine Hutka, a health promotions specialist, poses for a photo with a car seat that was sold online through Walmart. The seat on the left does not meet legal safety requirements On the right is a seat that meets safety requirements. - Ryan Taplin

A children’s safety group is warning consumers to be careful when buying car seats online.

A representative from Child Safety Link, the injury prevention program at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, recently ordered a product labelled as a car seat from walmart.ca.

Katherine Hutka, CSL’s car seat specialist, said she was surprised when the product — which bore the label Yosoo Portable Baby Safety Car Seat Breathable Sponge Convertible — was shipped after Walmart had received complaints about it.

“Somebody notified Child Safety Link that when they sorted car seats by least expensive that this one was the first one that came up,” Hutka said in an interview Tuesday, noting the product cost $35.

“When people reported this to me (about three weeks ago), they reported it as well to the retailer to say like, you know, this is not a safe thing, you should take this down.”

But the link remained for five days after the initial complaint. In the meantime, Hutka, who has worked with Child Safety Link for four years, decided to order the product to test whether it would get through. She said she was surprised to get an email saying the order had been fulfilled and continued to be surprised as the so-called car seat made its way through the shipping and customs process.

“I was kind of shocked when it arrived, I didn’t expect it would make it through all of the safeguards that we have in place,” said Hutka, who said usually customs officials are stringent about safety products such as car seats.

“There are regulations that should prevent this. I think the reason it got through customs was because it did not look like a car seat packaging, right? It said child car seat on it but it wasn’t. They would have thought it was an accessory.”

If your car seat doesn't bear the National Safety Mark, it's not legal to use in Canada. - Government of Canada
If your car seat doesn't bear the National Safety Mark, it's not legal to use in Canada. - Government of Canada

Hutka said the Yosoo is more like a baby carrier or snuggly with straps you’d find on a high chair or backpack. There’s no way to attach it securely to the vehicle so there’s no protection for the child in the event of a crash.

The product can still be found on the web from online sellers such as Jumia.

These kinds of products have been reported before to Child Safety Link, and Health Canada and Transport Canada have also received complaints, Hutka said.

“Anyone who’s lived here for a long time and has put their children in car seats wouldn’t think this was a car seat but we’re more worried about people who might be newcomers to Canada for whom car seats are really new concept, who would say this was purchased from a trusted retailer, purchased in Canadian money.”

A Walmart Canada spokeswoman said safety is a top priority for the company. 

"We take any concerns of this nature very seriously. Walmart Canada provides an online marketplace for third-party sellers to sell products directly to customer," Anika Malik, director of corporate affairs, said in an email. "We require all products sold by third-party sellers to comply with legal regulations and safety standards."

Malik said Walmart removed the item from its site as soon as it was notified about the concerns. 

"We are working with the seller to address this issue and ensure anyone who purchased this product is notified of the issue and receives a full refund. We urge anyone who may have purchased this item to not use it and return it to the seller."

Whe it comes to buying car seats, Hutka said It’s best to shop n person at a retail store. But if you're looking online, never buy from a third-party seller, which was the case with the Yosoo product, but rather directly from the online store itself, she said. 

Consumers should research what other buyers are saying about the car seat. And if it’s priced lower than the known brand name car seats, be wary.

But “we’ve seen deals on Canadian seats that can be as low as $60 or $75 that are safe, bearing the National Safety Mark (certifying that it is safe and legal for use in Canada.) It can be kind of tricky to just look at the price.”

You should also read the online description carefully, looking for poor grammar and illustrations of the product that are obviously digitally altered, which was the case with the Yosoo product.

A legitimate car seat will be well-packaged in materials specific to the car seat brand, and it will include an instruction manual and a product registration card.

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