Warning: Don’t be fooled by fake & illegal car seats

Fake and dangerous car seats are turning up on sales sites, and parents are urged to take care that the promises that they’re made by sellers are true.

It is now a legal requirement for children under three years to be in car seats; children over three must be in a car seat if one is available. The law also states that the car seat must be correctly certified and appropriate for the child’s stage of development. Car seats are expensive, though, and financially pressed parents cannot be blamed for wanting to save money on this vital item.

All car seats sold in South Africa must adhere to the European Economic Community’s (ECE) regulations pertaining the child restraints. Before a child restraint or car seat can be introduced to the market, it must first undergo a rigorous set of tests as stipulated by the ECE. When a car seat passes these tests, a certificate is issued to confirm compliance. This approval number will appear on an orange sticker on your car seat.

For a car seat to be legally sold in South Africa, the car seat along with all the certification and import documents must be presented to the NRCS (National Regulator for Certification Standards). If the car seat and documents presented pass scrutiny at the NRCS, a Letter of Authority is issued. Only then can the car seat be legally traded in South Africa.

All these processes add to the cost of the car seat and when you find a deal online that is too good to be true, it could be a fake or illegal car seat being sold to you. While 99.9% of car seats sold in South Africa are compliant, there are fake seats online and in flea markets.

One car seat, in particular, has been sold since early last year without the required approval from the NRCS. The seat comes in three themes: Wonder Woman, baby pink and baby blue. The ECE approval number is ECE 048711. This seat was not presented to the NRCS, so we cannot know if the ECE certification is indeed valid or if this seat will keep your child safe during a crash.

“The law also states that the car seat must be correctly certified and appropriate for the child’s stage of development.”

If you have such a seat, please return it to the place of purchase and ask for your money back. The other contraption (and that is exactly what it is) also pops online ever so often. This one is lethal though because there is no way that it could ever past any test whatsoever. It will not protect your child during a crash. If you are using one of these, please stop and return it to where you have purchased it from. This is an outright illegal car seat. This seat sells for anything from R250 to R900.

We want to assure parents that most of the seats available in South Africa are compliant. If you have any doubt about a car seat you are wanting to purchase, request a copy of the Letter of Authority issued by the NRCS. The letter will mention the ECE number that must be on the orange sticker on the seat and will be on the NRCS letterhead. If the seller does not know what you are talking about, walk away, fast!

Parents are always welcome to contact us at Wheel Well for advice on which car seat to purchase. Through our Car Seats for Kids campaign, we have eight years of experience in taking car seats apart, putting them together again and installing them. We know the seats on our market very well and we can help you spot a fake or illegal car seat, and help you narrow down your options to suit your budget, lifestyle and child.

If you find any of these illegal seats online, please report it to the owner of the site and the NRCS Facebook page.