Trading Standards warns UK over fake Christmas gifts

Trading StandardsThe UK Trading Standards Institute is concerned that Britons are putting their lives at risk by paying for counterfeit toys and goods for Christmas.

With Christmas spending in the UK set to reach £22bn this year, criminals will "be on the prowl" according to the government watchdog to take their share of the profits, cashing in on consumers looking out for good deals to ease the financial strain.

The scale of organised intellectual property crime and counterfeiting in the UK is estimated to be at least £90m every year.

The TSI says that 'dodgy imports' aimed at Christmas shoppers have already started coming in, with a huge single haul of more than 170,000 fake and substandard toys and Christmas lights intercepted by customs at Dover in November.

In 2013/14 UK Customs detained a total of 21,000 consignments of fake goods at UK borders. 
While a cheap deal on the must-have gift may seem appealing in the moment, it is a false economy that can have 'frightening consequences', according to the watchdog, including:

  • Counterfeit make-up can contain lead, copper, mercury, arsenic or cadmium and can cause swelling, rashes and poisoning;
  • Fake alcohol can contain methanol, antifreeze and fuel, causing nausea, stomach pains, kidney or liver problems, coma or death;
  • Unofficial children's merchandise such as toys and dressing-up clothes could pose numerous hazards with small loose parts, long cords and materials that are toxic or not conforming to fire retardant standards; and
  • Poor quality and missing components in fake electrical goods and chargers can lead to electric shocks, fires and explosions.
The cost- and corner-cutting approach of most counterfeiting operations mean the product is likely to be poor quality, with a significantly shorter lifespan than that of a legitimate product, and it will not meet required safety standards.

The TSI's chief executive Leon Livermore says: "You may not have imagined trading standards officers to be a key element of your happy Christmas, but without their essential work in the background, our festive meals and presents could easily turn into disappointment – or disaster.

"Trading standards officers are on the frontline of consumer protection, working hard to remove from the market place the poorly made concoctions of criminals out to make a quick buck at the expense of honest traders and the safety of shoppers.

"TSI supports its members and the trading standards profession in a bid to ensure it remains sustainable amidst increasingly savage cuts disproportionately affecting the service."

"Give a Christmas present to your trading standards service and write to your MP to stop further cuts that could ruin future Christmases for us all."

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