Counterfeit Christmas gifts could put lives at risk

A government watchdog has warned against buying fake goods, telling shoppers 'if the price seems too good to be true, it normally is'.

Britons spend £90 millions a year on counterfeit toys and goods for Christmas that could put lives at risk,  the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) has warned.

Children may be in danger from knock-off toys that have small, loose parts and clothes made from toxic materials or that don’t meet safety requirements, according to TSI

Some £22 billion is likely to be spent on Christmas by UK households this year, and officials are warning of the dangers of shoppers picking up bogus goods as they look to bag a bargain and ease the financial strain.

More than £90 million is spent on counterfeit products each year, and in 2013/14 customs officials detained 21,000 consignments of fake goods at UK borders.

In one operation, almost 170,000 dangerous and counterfeit goods were stopped from entering the UK by border staff at Dover Docks last month, one of the area’s biggest ever hauls.

Around 3,000 Christmas lights that were not properly insulated and could have caused electric shocks were seized, along with almost 5,500 counterfeit toys. The rest of the goods were sent back to China after they were found not to confirm with European standards.

Counterfeit goods are likely to be of poor quality because of their low production costs and corners being cut when items are made, the TSI said, meaning they will not meet required safety standards and will have shorter lifespans than legitimate products.

With Christmas looming, the public are being warned to be aware of some of the most common fake goods – make-up, toys and clothes, alcohol and electrical goods, all of which can pose a serious danger.

While a cheap deal on the ”must-have” Christmas gift may seem appealing, the TSI said such bargains are a false economy that can have frightening consequences.

Gavin Terry, the TSI’s lead officer for intellectual property, which includes things like trademarks, copyright and patents, said that in the run up to Christmas counterfeiters bring in seasonal items, including the most popular toys, cosmetics, designer luggage and clothing.

He said: ”Anything that people want to give at Christmas, the counterfeiters will bring it in at this time of year as they see an opportunity to sell.

”They are dealing in things that are cosmetic copies of reputable branded products. Where the problem lies is that they are not manufactured by genuine manufacturers. Manufacturing standards, materials and paints that are used are not approved, and they are not made in a controlled environment.

”So while people are buying something that ordinarily looks like the genuine item it is not.”

money as possible. There is a massive criminal network behind counterfeit products.”

The public can guard against knock-off goods by carrying out their own due diligence, Mr Terry said – buying from legitimate suppliers such as reputable high street retailers where you can take something back if it has gone wrong.

He said: “If people deal with legitimate supply chains they are not going to have the same problems.

“But counterfeiters make anything which is desirable, things that tend to sell out in legitimate chains. So people buy the counterfeit versions by mistake or out of desperation.

“But what happens in January when something goes wrong, when your nephew is crying because a wheel has dropped off a toy or he is injured? That is the undesirable side of the Christmas trade.

“It is far better to give a gift card and buy something from a legitimate retail source after Christmas. That way, in terms of customers protecting themselves they are in a far stronger position.”

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