/ Motoring, Parenting, Shopping

Would your child’s car seat pass a crash test?

Child car seat

Are you confident that your child’s car seat is fitted properly? Worryingly, if it was fitted by one of the big high street retailers offering child car seat fittings, it may not be as safe as it seems.

Last week a BBC Watchdog found that 90% of the children’s car seat fittings performed by the stores in their investigation were wrong.

The programme investigated John Lewis, Mothercare, Smyths, Toys R Us and Halfords. Store assistants at 10 different stores were asked to fit an own-brand belted car seat, with shocking results.

Car seats aren’t safe enough

Sadly, buying the best child car seat possible isn’t enough. If it’s not fitted properly it won’t be effective in a crash and could put your child in serious danger – as our tests over the years and scenes from BBC Watchdog prove.

The show tested the car seats in a 30mph crash and revealed that in some cases the child sitting in the seat would have been severely injured. This is hugely worrying and very disappointing – a sentiment echoed by many parents on Twitter:

Retailers – take more responsibility

The results of the crash tests shown on Watchdog are shocking, but unfortunately they don’t surprise us. They reflect what Which? discovered when we investigated child car seat retailers last year. We found that 90% of stores in our research failed to fit two branded car seats correctly.

Since our investigation we’ve been working with many of the retailers to help improve the training and tools on offer to retail staff. Still, it seems these changes aren’t filtering down to shop floor staff quickly enough, which needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Since the Watchdog programme aired, John Lewis said:

‘We are reinforcing our existing procedures, carrying out a full independent review and implementing a complete retraining programme for staff.’

Toys R Us said:

‘We are committed to working with experts in the field, including Child Seat Safety, to ensure the advice and service we provide to our customers is to the necessary high standards in the important area of car seat safety.’

Halfords said:

‘We take all feedback on our services very seriously and it is not acceptable to us that we have any customer who is unsatisfied with the service our knowledgeable fitters provide. We are disappointed by some of the findings on the programme and will review our processes in light of this.’

Smyths said:

‘In the light of Watchdog’s research, we are putting additional focus on staff training for car seat installation.’

Mothercare said:

‘It is extremely disappointing to see the results of the Watchdog investigation and we are reviewing the findings with the greatest urgency.’

It’s encouraging to hear the retailers have responded already. Many are promising improvements, but it’s vital that we keep checking these stores to make sure the changes actually take place.

What can parents do?

As these investigations show, it’s not always enough to rely on the advice of a car fitting service. Our advice is to still get it done by a fitting service, but it’s also vital for parents to do their own research.

Go prepared by reading up on child car seats before going shopping. Watch our range of fitting videos in advance, and download our 10 quick fitting checks list and take this along for the fitting. Most importantly, check the person doing the fitting has been trained, and don’t be afraid to challenge anything that doesn’t look right – like a loose seat, or a slack seat belt.

What is your experience – do you feel confident that your child’s car seat was fitted safely and correctly? Or has this research cast a shadow on your child’s safety and caused you to check the fitting more regularly?


ISTR this being something of a perennial subject for Which?. I’m fairly sure the same names kept cropping up as villains, too. It’s also likely to affect consumers cyclically; we’re only interested when we have our own children, or later, when we become grandparents.

It’s clearly serious, however, and it does show that no matter how good a product is, if it’s not installed properly it might as well not exist.