UK shoppers warned to avoid fake Christmas ‘bargains’

Christmas shoppers in the UK have been urged to beware of counterfeit and potentially unsafe goods this festive season.

Over the past two years, 39 cases involving more than £116m ($148m) of counterfeit and pirated goods have been prosecuted in the UK, according to consultancy KPMG, which issues a regular Fraud Barometer report on trends in the UK economy.

Counterfeit goods can pose a serious health risk, according to KPMG, which cites the case of £3m fake teeth whitening scam – peddling products with 110 times the recommended level of hydrogen peroxide that left some users with chemical burns.

“Shoppers have to remember that even at Christmas if it feels too good to be true it usually is and Boxing Day may be a painful experience when loved ones find their presents are not what they seem,” said James Maycock, forensic partner at KPMG.

The figures for counterfeit and pirated goods are compounded by bootleg tobacco and alcohol that denied the treasury almost £150m in unpaid duty over the same time period, aside from putting consumers at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

“They are widely available and, in many cases, are priced so that it is plain they are not the real thing. It may be a happy Christmas for the counterfeiter, but not for the shopper who is led astray – and a real loss to the brand owners,” he continued, adding: “Consumers may often turn a blind eye, or consider this a victimless crime, but this shadow economy activity often directly promotes money laundering and tax evasion.”

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