/ Money, Shopping

Have you ever bought fake electrical goods?

The number of Brits buying fake electrical goods has doubled in the past year. Have you been tempted by a ‘bargain’ that turned out to be anything but?

More than 2.5 million of us have either knowingly or unknowingly bought a counterfeit electrical product in the last year alone, according a report by the charity Electrical Safety First this week.

I need to hold my hand up at this point. In my pre-Which? days I took a chance on what looked like a remarkably cheap laptop battery. You can probably guess what happened. It took eight weeks to arrive (from China) and only held its charge for 45 minutes.

Unsurprisingly, I’m not alone in my desire to save money. Cost is the most important reason given by people who thought about buying a counterfeit electrical item. One in 12 would still buy an item they knew to be fake, if it was cheaper than the original.

But of course people don’t always know an item’s a fake when they buy. The report also includes examples of people buying from sellers on quite legitimate online marketplaces only to discover when the goods arrived that they had been scammed and the product was obviously not the real thing.

What fake goods are we buying?

E-cigarettes and blenders are among the most popular fake products we’re buying, according to Electrical Safety First. The charity, dedicated to reducing deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents, has carried out tests on some of these counterfeit items to see how safe they really are.

Worryingly, it found that while many items may look safe, even those with small fake internal parts are at risk of exploding – leaving those buying them vulnerable to serious injury or property damage.

In fact, more than half of us who’d bought a fake electrical product said they’d had a problem of some kind with it.

Three in five of all fake electrical goods are bought from online retailers, but social media is emerging as a new marketplace. Nearly one in 10 of those who’d bought a counterfeit electrical product said they’d found it via an ad on social media.

How can you spot a fake?

Fake goods are sold at low and often, very tempting, prices. Be wary of deals that appear too good to be true – they usually are!

And don’t buy something you know is far below the recommended retail price – no matter how tempting.

Check the packaging, too. Remember, something that’s supposed to be expensive will not be delivered to you wrapped in plastic. Be wary of anything with low-quality packaging or no logo.

Our guide includes more on how to spot a fake product and how to check if a website is genuine. And if you do inadvertently buy a counterfeit item, you can use our step-by-step guide to report it to trading standards.

Have you bought a fake item? What happened? How did you find out?


This comment was removed at the request of the user

Years ago one son, then young, brought me back a portable CD player from his holiday abroad. it was marked “Panasoanic”, had been cheap, and worked very well. One problem I find buying off the net is to distinguish between original manufacturers products and “compatible” ones – like phone batteries. I had to work quite hard recently to ensure I’d found genuine Nokia batteries and car chargers; the price difference between these and their “equivalents” was marked enough to help separate them. No doubt unscrupulous traders will abolish this price difference to make you think you are getting the real thing.

Another son bought a “fake” version of a very expensive (>£2800) watch . in China, made as an exact copy in every detail, but for £400. It has worked reliably for a long time now, so like fake handbags if you want the look but don’t have the dosh……..

Where we lack protection is from Trading Standards both in their routine checking of goods and in prosecuting traders who knowingly sell fraudulent and unsafe goods, particularly electrical items, and perhaps by people like Amazon who facilitate their purchase through what seems to be an unregulated market place. If only we felt we could get action when dangerous goods were reported! But if we don’t fund the regulators properly we will remain vulnerable.

Martina Dove says:
13 June 2016

Trading standards are struggling to cope with the explosion of scams, particularly affecting the elderly and other unethical practices that have become common place, such as charities specifically targeting lone elderly people to persuade them to leave their assets to them, intercepting fake lotteries at a point of entry and new ways of buying (i.e. like Amazon marketplace). Services are being cut and the new ways of exploiting people are facilitated by invention of the internet and prosper due to lack of funds to tackle it. Then there are punishments for such crimes; they are often so lenient that there is no deterrent and most don’t even get investigated. And it will just get worse.
A good scammer will also not stand out with a massively reduced prices. Often people do all they can to avoid being scammed and still get scammed.

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Some years ago the charger for an Apple PowerBook computer failed. It was an old laptop that I used only to display photos at society events and I did not want to pay Apple prices, so I looked on eBay and found one advertised as an Apple product and with a photo that looked like the genuine article. It was also more expensive than the compatible chargers and I guessed that it was surplus stock. What arrived looked like many of the compatible chargers on sale and was unbranded. The seller offered a refund without question but I have no idea whether or not what I had bought contained the safety features of the genuine product. With hindsight I should have reported this to eBay.

In the past few years I have read a lot about unsafe electrical goods and now stick to established brands from established suppliers. I’ll stick to eBay for other items and have bought some good quality products at very reasonable prices.

smug_alec says:
13 June 2016

Worryingly, it’s possible to buy the rights to long-defunct corporate brand names and logos, to add some credibility to the cheap garbage proffered. (Elderly people may fall for this.) For example, you now see nasty, plastic ‘retro’ record players sporting the old GPO logo as if it’s a trusted brand. We’ve also seen fire-prone TVs bearing the ‘Wharfedale’ name – which of course have nothing to do with Rank Wharfedale as we knew it. (There are many more, of course.) Not quite a fake product, but shameless use of a previously-good name to fool the naive.

As you say, brands that were once decent quality are now used to encourage people to buy poor quality goods, and even many surviving brands are of much lower quality than in the past. They are not fake but definitely best avoided.

Even if goods are of poor quality they must be safe. I can find no recalls for Wharfedale TVs on the Electrical Safety First website: http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/ If you are aware of a problem then it would be best to discuss it with Trading Standards. Just call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline and they will put you through to Trading Standards.

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smug_ alec is possible right as he mentions TV’s and the brand name was being used by Argos up until 2007

Fortunately yet again Wikipedia shows how important it is to have a speedy reference for who really owns whom. My faith is restored in Wharfedale speakers following the Wikilink to the site.

“The International Audio Group (IAG) is a British manufacturer of consumer and professional audio & HiFi components. It is based in Huntingdon in the UK. It is owned and run by twin Taiwanese brothers Bernard and Michael Chang.

In the past the IAG purchased several British HiFi manufacturers: Wharfedale, Quad Electroacoustics, Mission, Tag McLaren, Audiolab and Castle Acoustics plus several Italian manufacturers of lighting equipment including f.a.l. and Coef. It has manufacturing plants in Shenzhen, China employing in the region of 1500 people. Design of the products is done by Chinese, American and European designers.
IAG also manufactures luxury yachts near Shenzhen which is the biggest yacht yard in South East Asia.[citation needed] Wikipedia”