“The dangers of illegal toys can be found in all kinds of little corners: sharp edges, toxic materials, highly flammable materials, and above all: parts that break easily. Young children put everything in their mouths and swallow it this way.”
Emil Kalis, director of Stichting Speel Nederland, the toy company’s trade association, is using the news about seized Huggy Wuggy plush to warn parents.
fake from china
He explains that legal toy requirements are stringent: “Toy manufacturers must have their products tested by independent agencies. And if they offer this product in physical stores and online, they must prove it is safe with the test report. In European game law EN71.”
However, there are many illegal games circulating in the Netherlands as well. Therefore it has not been tested for safety. Last week, customs announced that they had intercepted more than 130,000 pieces of fake Huggy Wuggy plush. “We found them on different planes,” customs spokesman Peter Ten Brucke says. “Last week we found a group of 15,000 of these stuffed animals. They were on their way from China to Italy.”
In total, customs have intercepted as many as 884,678 toys since January 1, 2019, according to customs.
Advice, complaints and unsafe materials
At SafetyNL (formerly Consumer and Safety), you’ll find tips and advice about safe gaming. You can also find tips on playing safely outside on another page of this institution.
The Dutch Consumer Product and Food Safety Authority (NVWA) collects complaints and reports from residents about unsafe products, including toys. If necessary, NVWA has unsafe games pulled from the market.
There is also a European Commission website, Security Gateway, which lists all unsafe products with pictures and descriptions.
Such lovable, untested toys are finding their way into children in the Netherlands, as Callis of the Trade Federation knows. “It usually has a CE mark on it. They don’t have that quality mark at all, but yes, they just print it on the packaging and labels. As a consumer you can never tell if that quality mark is due.”
And, as Callis says, it cannot even be excluded that such goods will end up in ordinary Dutch stores. “The authorities simply cannot check everything. But checks are constantly carried out, even with items already in stores. So if you buy games from a recognized store in the Netherlands, you will get the best guarantee that you are buying a safe product..”
Swallow the batteries
Mieke Cotterink, a child safety expert at SafetyNL, is also familiar with the CE marking issue. “That’s why I always say: If it’s too cheap to really do, you better be safe.”
The hard part, she says, is that more and more physical stores are disappearing. “You’re almost forced to buy games online. But it’s often not clear at all if it’s a Dutch store or a foreign store. This makes it more difficult.”
Koterink also knows that illegal games pose risks. “In Europe, there are no ropes longer than 22 cm on toys, in order to avoid the risk of suffocation. Some plastics give sharp edges if they break. Eyes can come off. And also a notorious problem: the covers that hold the batteries behind., they can burst or They break. If children swallow these batteries, it is life-threatening. Toys approved for this purpose have been tested, but illegal toys are not.”
Many of these products – fake and whose safety has not been tested – are purchased by consumers themselves via foreign web stores such as Alibaba. “Search this site for Pokemon cards,” says Callis. “You can even see in the pictures it’s fake. People buy it, but people don’t think enough about the risks. Your child puts it in their mouth. It’s life threatening.”
It is believed that parents are not sufficiently aware of such risks. “A lot of people think: If you go into the Netherlands, there will be oversight. But that’s not necessarily the case.”
The latter confirms Peter Ten Broek from Customs: “We monitor all goods entering the Netherlands from outside the European Union. But when it comes to counterfeiting, we only stop these shipments when a legitimate company that holds a patent for a particular article informs us. They ask for it. If they don’t ask for it. We’ll let her through. We’ve been checking out Huggy Wuggy since this summer.”
pawns and dice
According to child safety expert Cotterink, European child play rules are in good shape. “Especially the legislation for Class 0 to 3 gets a lot of attention. You won’t find any pawns or dice in it, if all goes well. That’s why my advice always: pay close attention to the age indicator on games.”
Cotterink urges parents to pay close attention when there are children under 3 or older in the home: “With the first child, parents are often very alert. Problems arise when there are many children, because these older children are left Their games lie behind the lie. Pay attention to that carefully.”
The financial aspect also plays a role for the trade association, as Callis acknowledges: “We also represent the economic interests of game manufacturers. Counterfeiting is theft.”
He adds that this profession generated revenues of about 800 million euros last year. It is estimated that, on top of this, the Dutch buy 5 to 10 percent of foreign websites. “So then you’re soon talking about 60 million euros a year.”
In addition, the director also points out moral objections to fake articles: “The game industry is committed to sustainable products, and also inclusive games so that no one feels left out. This is not the case with this kind of hacker.”
Callis is surprised that Huggy Wuggy’s batches are flown on cargo planes. “This is much more expensive than every marine container. But it is clearly profitable even at that time, which reinforces our belief that there was a significant error in materials and construction.”