Shoppers should guard against buying counterfeit goods in the run up to Christmas, the Home Office has warned.
Counterfeit products, whether they be fake Louis Vuitton handbags or iPhones, have potential health and safety risks, as they have not been subject to proper testing to ensure their quality, according to government officials.
Millions of products, such as Premier League football shirts and popular children's toys, are being seized each year, the majority of which are bought online and shipped in from abroad.
Using counterfeit websites can not only put people’s banking details at risk of being hacked but also see them helping to support sweatshops, child labour and even terrorism.
Customs officials point out that one of the biggest signs that something is not the real thing is the price. If it is too good to be true, it probably is, they said.
Other indications can be spelling mistakes on the packaging and poorly designed packaging.
Anyone suspecting that they have bought counterfeit goods are being told to contact Action Fraud, their local Trading Standards office or visit the Citizens Advice website.
Caroline Nokes, immigration minister, said: “Counterfeit goods, especially electronics and beauty products, can risk the safety of consumers, and allow organised criminals to take money from honest retailers and public funds.”
She added: “Border Force are at ports, airports, and mailing rooms, working hard to keep these knock-off goods out of the country, depriving criminals of illicit profits and keeping consumers safe.”
This comes amid continuing concern over the trade in counterfeit goods, highlighted by brand owners and the shipping industry forming a united front against the practice.
A Declaration of Intent to Prevent the Maritime Transport of Counterfeit Goods, organised by the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP), was announced in December 2016. It acknowledges the “destructive impact” of fakes on global trade and calls on the maritime industry to take a zero tolerance approach in tackling the problem, with strict supply chain controls and other due diligence checks.
To date, the declaration has been signed by a number of global shipping firms, freight forwarders, brand manufacturers and various trade associations.
Signatories include Chanel, Dupont, Lacoste, Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Company, P&G and Unilever.
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