It’s now more than a year since the Australian/New Zealand standard for child restraints (AS/NZS 1754:2013) was amended to allow the sale in Australia of ISOFIX compatible child seats, but they’re still not available to buy. Why?

WHEN THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT ISOFIX compatible child restraints would be allowed to be sold in Australia, parenting blogs applauded long and loud. Indeed, go and Google ‘ISOFIX Australia’ and see what you find (182,000 results, to be precise) and most are forum sites asking when Australians will be allowed to buy and fit ISOFIX compatible child seats now that the standards have been amended.

But, more than 12 months after the standard was amended, there’s still not a single ISOFIX compatible child seat available to purchase in Australia. And, if this recent response from Britax Australia, posted in a comment on this site, is anything to go by, it doesn’t look like they’ll be appearing on the market any time soon.

“Please find below our standard reply for enquiries in regards to 2013 Standard products and ISOFIX.

“Thank you for your patience. We are working through the steps to introduce Safe-n-Sound/Britax ISOFIX compatible child restraints in to the Australian market. Although the revised Australian Standard was introduced in June last year we need to conduct a variety of testing and then gain certification.

“We expected that we would be able to get child restraints on the market more quickly which unfortunately has been delayed by a number of hurdles. As soon as we are able to launch the ISOFIX compatible child restraints and other new products we will provide advice on Facebook and Twitter.”

What’s the hold up?

Well, the problem seems to be around the size of the Australian market and the cost associated with re-engineering existing child restraints. See, the Australian standard says that any ISOFIX compatible child restraint sold in Australia must also be able to be secured via a seatbelt, meaning it has to have ISOFIX points, a top tether and also the seatbelt fit. It also has to undergo more stringent testing, covering frontal impact test, side impact test and oblique impact test; these three test requirements are unique to Australia.

While meeting that testing requirement might be one part of the delay in seeing ISOFIX compatible child restraints on the Australian market, it also means that the seats currently available for sale in Australia are extremely safe.

Why don’t I just import an ISOFIX compatible child restraint from overseas?

If the parenting blogs and forum sites are anything to go by, indeed, there have been similar comments on this site, parents are doing just that, going online and ordering an ISOFIX compatible child restraint. There’s just one catch, and that is that installing an overseas-purchased ISOFIX compatible child restraint is illegal. As such, Practical Motoring can’t condone this course of action.

Not all ISOFIX compatible child restraints are created equal?

Currently there are two types of ISOFIX systems:

Universal ISOFIX, which is used in Europe and the UK, has the two ISOFIX points at the back of the restraint (locking into the seat) and a top tether, but it can also be used without utilising the ISOFIX points and just using the seatbelt and top tether;
Semi-Universal ISOFIX is employed in America and requires the ISOFIX points at the back of the seat and a third anchor point which is not a top tether – in the US they use a support leg.

If you read the Australian standard, it more closely reflects the use of Universal ISOFIX, so, why is it taking so long for these seats to make it onto the Australian market. No-one really knows, indeed, Britax, which was the first company to offer a range of ISOFIX compatible child restraints to European customers, says it’s ability to offer ISOFIX compatible child restraints is down to “a number of hurdles”.

That said, it’s not exactly plain sailing for ISOFIX compatible child restraints in Europe. See, because car seat cushions don’t have a set standard in terms of seat height, density or angle, many child restraint makers are tested and approved for use in certain car models only.

It’s worth highlighting that despite what you might read on forum sites in Australia, Universal ISOFIX (the type used in Europe and the UK) requires the use of a top tether, while in America they use a support leg that essentially performs the same function, and that is to stop the child restraint moving forward in a collision.

What is ISOFIX?

There’s a misunderstanding that the ISOFIX system is safer than the current type of child restraint being used in Australia. It isn’t. It is, however, easier to use and designed to ensure, amongst other things, that the child restraint doesn’t move. And I’m sure we’ve all fitted a child restraint to a car and been unable to get that last little bit of wriggle out of it – Practical Motoring recommends having an accredited professional fit your child restraint.

The ISOFIX system offers anchor points (push-style latch) in the back seat of a car; the location and type of anchor are standard across all vehicles, which means any ISOFIX compatible child restraint will be able to fitted into any car with the ISOFIX system installed. Sort of. Because, as mentioned above, not all rear seats are the same, and so ISOFIX compatible child restraints can only be fitted to the car they’ve been tested and accredited for. Confusing.

The ISOFIX system has two anchorage points at the rear of a standard back car seat, it’s usually labelled with the words ISOFIX. These points are where an ISOFIX compatible child restraint latches onto the car seat’s ISOFIX mountings; these points are fixed to the vehicle’s chassis ensuring that once the child restraint has been locked onto the car’s ISOFIX mounting point the child restraint won’t move.

We’d love to hear what you think of the ISOFIX saga and whether you’re one of the many Australians who’ve already purchased an ISOFIX compatible child restraint from overseas. Let us know below or on Facebook.

11 Comments

  1. Matthew Wright
    June 22, 2014 at 11:21 am — Reply

    I’ve started a Facebook page to keep people informed about this early stage. I (along with some friends) have spent countless hours researching why we can’t find these products anywhere and who may be the first to willingly take my hard earned Australian dollars for one of their products.

    It is not only inconvenient to have to change these seats over when a family owns 2 cars (which many families do) but to have to pay to professionally fit these at $30-50 each time is just annoying in some states.
    Here’s our rather modest group, but hoping that with each piece of news, we can get some information together for Australian consumers so they can finally have some choice without having to trawl the blogs, much the same as you’ve has to do yourself Isaac! Thanks for the article 🙂

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1428471117416013/

  2. Jasper
    June 28, 2014 at 1:33 pm — Reply

    I have been waiting for these seats to come out ever since my daughter was born in May 2012. It’s been frustrating to say the least. While the old seats were great for their time, we’re more than 10 years behind the times, and the standards bodies (and the ACCC) are MIND NUMBINGLY SLOW in changing and adapting to the modern world. The endless streams of red tape and hurdles that must be overcome at every step of the process is creating more problems than it solves.

    This goes for more than just standards in child seat design, but Standards Australia seems to be bogged down in endless mounds of paperwork (I work in testing and repairing medical equipment, and the standards for design and testing of medical equipment are similarly bogged down in stupidity). Standards that eventually make it through the mess are needlessly complicated to understand, and the people that implement and test to the standards don’t even understand them.

    I’ve seen the flip side of the coin, and I’m well aware of the levels of safety in other places like India, parts of Asia or South America, where safety seems to be of no concern, and children roam freely in the back of cars. But they at least appear to be progressing, where in Australia, we are going backwards and real safety is being compromised due to the difficulty in changing systems that are already in place!

  3. Dr X
    July 5, 2014 at 9:06 pm — Reply

    The misunderstanding is that ISOFIX is no safer than currently available restraints on the Australian market. Published research suggests otherwise: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217436/

  4. Lynn Blackfoot
    September 29, 2015 at 8:02 am — Reply

    PLEASD CORRECT THIS FALSE INFORMATION!
    YOU HAVE MIXED UP THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE US AND EUROPE!
    EUROPE requires a load leg NOT THE US!
    Us Americans have been begging for seats with antirotation features, especially the load leg!
    So far the US only has the Cybex Aton 2, Aton Q, Aton Cloud Q, and the Nuna Pipa models with the load legs. ALL other European imports that have been introduced to the American market in recent years have been stripped of the European safety features!
    The US is the country that requires all cars and car seats to include top tethers and tether anchors, ONLY for forward facing car seats!
    Furthermore, the US DOES NOT HAVE ISOFIX (with the only exceptions being the recently discontinued Baby Trend Inertia, the Clek Foonf, and the Nuna Pipa)! The US opted out of ISOFIX only to turn around and develop the useless LATCH system! LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. ISOFIX and LATCH are NOT the same thing! ISOFIX utilizes rigid anchors attached to a steel frame in the car seat and requires 3 anchor points both forward AND rear facing, while LATCH is just another belt that is equally as confusing as a seat belt for installation in the grand scheme things, requires only 2 achor points for rear facing seats, and only SOME models of car seats actually REQUIRE the use of the top tether when insyalling deats forward facing with the LATCH belt. So, LATCH DOES NOT simplify installation, NOR is it any safer than just using the seat belt! ISOFIX however has been proven in comparative testing to be significantly safer than seat belt or LATCH installation! Canada has essentially the same LATCH system except they call it UAS, which stands for Universal Anchorage System. I’m pretty sure Maxi Cosi has already released LATCH seats in Australia. I don’t care if AU citizens call it ISOFIX, but it’s NOT, it’s LATCH and not as safe as the European ISOFIX seats.
    In the loght of learning more about your crash test standards, I kinda wish I had ordered my 8 month olds infant car seat (or capsule to you guys) from Australia instead of Germany! Well, if the two vehicles we have actually had tether anchors, but we drive 20 and 27 year old hunks of junk, so they don’t, which put an Aussie seat out of the question for us anyways. The only option for the third anchor for us was the load leg. We ended up getting a Maxi Cosi Pebble with the EasyBase2, the non-ISOFIX base.
    Please note that using foreign seats here in the US is not specifically illegal, I highly suspect that’s because the lawmakers know that on the worlds stage, American car seat standards come in dead last place and are one big, sad joke! Hence why I chose to buy one of the safest possible, old-clunker-compatible seat from Germany instead of a domestic one.

    • September 29, 2015 at 9:12 am — Reply

      Hi Lyn, thanks for that. I was pretty sure I’d got the details correct, but I’ll take another look. Isaac

      • September 29, 2015 at 9:13 am — Reply

        Hi lynn, that’s not correct. I’ve actually got one of the Maxi-Cosi seats and it’s definitely an ISOFIX seat… with a top tether latch. Isaac

        • Lynn Blackfoot
          September 29, 2015 at 10:52 am — Reply

          Nope, it’s LATCH. Sorry, I wasn’t quite specific enough. Let me clarify. LATCH requires that all new cars and all new car seats capable of being installed FORWARD facing manufactured after September 2002 are equipped with both the LATCH belt AND the top tether strap. However, while it is strongly recommended that the top tether is used, the USE of them isn’t actually REQUIRED for most models. Remember, LATCH is an anachronism for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. Both versions have the top tether, but Europe allows some exceptions that have a load leg INSTEAD of the top tether. The biggest thing that sets LATCH and ISOFIX apart is that LATCH is just another belt, or “flexible” anchors, while ISOFIX is “rigid” lower anchors connected to a steel frame in the seat. After posting the first comment, I checked the Australian Maxi Cosi site, and it does specifically say that it has the “flexible” ISOGO, so it is “ISOFIX compatible.” So yes, it has the LATCH version, NOT ISOFIX. So, despite the fact that they both utilize essentially the same lower anchors, ISOFIX anchors are required to be a specific distance apart in order to fit all car seats with its rigid system, whereas LATCH being a “flexible” system, has no requirement for a specific measurement of space between the anchors, just an allowable range. In some cars they’re merely 10 inches apart, in others they can be 12, and so on, so I’ve heard complaints of parents being unable to install the rare ISOFIX seats available here in some vehicles (using the LATCH anchors, that is).
          Oh, and both LATCH and ISOFIX set the combined child+car seat weight limit at 33kg. The US lists it in pounds but when I did the conversion it was only slightly off from 33kg mark. However I haven’t looked at the specifics of this new ISOGO, so I do not know if it has the same combined weight limit.
          *It’s so confusing trying to buy stuff from the rest of the world when you’ve only ever used the standard system… good grief the US makes no sense… but that’s another topic entirely! Lol!

          • September 29, 2015 at 10:58 am

            Hi Lynn, you’re right. Sorry, I misunderstood you.
            Yep, the seat I have allows for a range rather than being a rigid ISOFIX mount… it’s ISOFIX compatible but also allows for the seatbelt and top tether to be used in a car without ISOFIX mounting points.
            It is very confusing, and Australia really isn’t much better with rules around child seats. Isaac

          • Lynn Blackfoot
            September 29, 2015 at 11:55 am

            Yup, just like here. Why can’t Australia, Europe, Canada, Sweden, and the US put their heads together to create ONE standard??? I mean just the combination of Europe, Sweden, and Australia’s standards would make an incredible beast of a car seat standard, not to mention the car seats that standard would produce! I mean, we all already figured out the mode of making a “universal” standard between continents, so it’s not THAT far of a stretch…
            Oh wait, that’s what ISOFIX was SUPPOSED to be for…
            Oy vey, why can’t we all just get along?!

          • Lynn Blackfoot
            September 29, 2015 at 12:22 pm

            Out of curiosity, does Australia have anything like the US system’s answer to rampant seat misuse? Here we have what are called certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians. The government developed a four day training course back in 1997 to receive the certification to become an educator for parents and caregivers of children on, you guessed it, child passenger safety. Basically you get certified to teach people how to use their car seats properly. I was certified from 2007-2009. Hence my knowledge on this. Unlike most techs though, after seeing several parents who had imported the Maxi Cosi Cabrio, (as it was called back then, it has since been renamed the CabrioFix) my curiosity was piqued, so I started researching the rest of the standards on the planet. Not many techs really have any more than the most BASIC knowledge of standards. The combination of my curiosity, and desire to stay up to date on the ENTIRE world of child passenger safety led me to stumble across your article here.
            I’m sorry to hear ISOGO wound up being as ridiculous as LATCH

  5. Lynn Blackfoot
    September 29, 2015 at 8:18 am — Reply

    Maxi Cosi introduced the LATCH system to Astralia, NOT ISOFIX…
    Way to go Maxi Cosi…
    NOT!
    Epic. Fail.
    They dropped the ball for the Aussies, the same way they dropped the ball for us here in the US.
    SMDH…
    Comparative testing has proven ISOFIX (rigid anchors, with 3-anchorage-point-requirement for BOTH rear and forward facing installation) much safer AND way easier to use than the joke that is LATCH (just another belt, most models with top-tether-style hooks for anchors, only 2-anchorage-point-requirement for rear facing, and only SOME models actually REQUIRE the use of the tether anchor when installed forward facing with the LATCH belt)!

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober