Retailers failing to ask all important questions of car seat customers

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Almost all retailers are failing to ask all of the important questions needed to safely advise customers choosing a child’s car seat, a survey has found.

John Lewis and Mamas and Papas finished bottom of the table in the mystery shopper investigation by Which?, but staff in 89% of visits across all retailers failed to ask all key safety questions recommended by experts and manufacturers, the consumer group said.

Mystery shoppers posing as customers who wanted to upgrade a baby car seat for a 9kg nine-month-old baby visited 213 branches of high street chains and independent retailers, marking each salesperson with a “fail” if they did not ask all the key questions.

Essential questions included details about the baby’s weight, height and age, the type of vehicle, if the seat would be used in any other vehicles and if the car had ISOfix connectors or a top-tether point, as well as a demonstration of how it should be safely installed.

All 12 John Lewis stores visited failed to ask all the required questions, as did all seven of the Mamas and Papas stores.

Halfords was the top performer despite 71 out of the 86 stores visited failing to ask all questions.

The investigation also found independent stores performed better than most major car seat retailers with a fail rate of 90%.

Which? found nearly a quarter of stores (23%) did not offer fitting demonstrations, and in 18% of visits staff failed to ask the vital question of the make and model of car.

Child car seats should be fitted to a child’s height and weight rather than just age, according to safety experts, but in 95% of visits sales assistants only asked about the child’s age.

Which? said it should be mandatory for sales assistants to use a consultation form when helping customers buying a car seat.

Nikki Stopford, director of research and publishing at Which?, said: “This is another disappointingly poor service from retailers who previously promised to improve the quality of safety advice they give to customers shopping for child car seats.

“Retailers have told us that staff are trained to the highest standards. This alone clearly isn’t working so retailers must urgently introduce checklists to make sure staff are asking all the important safety questions when advising customers.”

A spokesman for Mamas and Papas said: “Because car seat safety is so important to us, we have a partnership with Car Seat Safety Ltd to ensure that staff receive industry leading training that meets all regulatory requirements.

“Every Mamas and Papas store has an Institution of Occupational Safety and Health-accredited car seat expert and all colleagues are trained to follow a comprehensive check list during the sale process.

“We have asked Which? to confirm which Mamas and Papas stores featured in this research so that we can provide colleagues in these stores with refresher training if necessary.”

John Lewis said: “We treat the selling of car seats with the utmost seriousness and have invested significant resource and training in this area to get it right for our customers.

“We ensure every nursery partner attends and passes a two-day car seat training course, independently run by the leading car seat training provider in the UK.

“We also have mystery shops carried out by a third party, following up on all subsequent advice to ensure the quality of our training.

“We have asked Which? to release their methodology and would value the opportunity to discuss it further with them.”

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