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Have you spotted any fake products on the shelves?

Toy Story

While some fake goods are easy to spot, others are near-identical to the genuine article. So are you confident you could spot a counterfeit – and have you seen any lately?

As the Christmas shopping season approaches, Harrow Council has caught a cowboy trader selling fake Toy Story merchandise.

After delving into the store a little deeper, more than 1,000 knock-off toys and games were found on sale. Trading Standards officers have since slapped the shop director with a £2,000 fine for selling illegitimate merchandise and compromising safety.

What gave it away? Disney Pixar’s Toy Story 4 isn’t even scheduled for release until June… 2019.

But if it wasn’t for that slight oversight catching the eye of Trading Standards, would you have been able to tell the difference?

Faking it

Counterfeit toys and other products are nothing new, but the issue does creep back into the spotlight every year as the Christmas gift-giving season gets closer.

Back in December 2015, Patrick spotted Star Wars knock-offs with names such as ‘Toby-One’ and ‘R2-3PO’!

While it isn’t exactly an epidemic, we’d still recommend everyone shopping for gifts this year keeps an eye out for potential dodgy goods, whether it’s in-store or online.

And if you aren’t quite sure what to look out for, our Consumer Rights pages are home to a wealth of advice and tips, including:

  • Watch out for items that are suspiciously cheap
  • Check the packaging – be wary of low-quality wrapping or lack of official logos
  • Ask whether the store offers an after-sales service or guarantee
  • Check the background of the trader/store for customer reviews.
Which? Consumer Rights

While some fake products may be able to do enough to convince you they’re genuine, there’ll always be a few that are, shall we say, a little easier to identify.

Have you spotted any fake products on the shelves? Do share your photos with us if you have any.


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Not a toy, but I’ve bought so many Apple headphones online thinking they are genuine! When I’ve opened the packet I’m unable to send them back.

I have about ten cheap LED torches that take three AAA cells, but among them are three fakes that were supplied with slightly thinner cells, and if proper AAAs are placed in the battery holder, that no longer fits in the torch. Both the satisfactory and unsatisfactory torches are labelled Rolson. One came from Tesco and that’s OK.

Whilst many emanate from the “land of built to a price”, it is those who import and distribute them in the UK who are the real villains. A £2000 fine is peanuts, and just a business expense. Far more severe penalties should be imposed when goods are dangerous.

Amazon seem to assist this by allowing resellers to advertise on its website products that bear legitimate manufacturers’ names, but are counterfeit – phone batteries and chargers for example. And yet nothing seems to be done for products that may be a hazard. Perhaps Which? could expose the extent of this by buying in and examining such products, warning us of how to spot the fakes (price presumably is a major factor) and getting action taken to prosecute the sellers, or Amazon for being an accessory.

Well, not even a £2000 fine!
The company was fined £400 and ordered to pay costs of £1,466. Moorthy was given a conditional discharge for 12 months.
Graham Henson, Harrow Council portfolio holder for environment, crime and community safety, said: “This irresponsible shop owner thought she could play around with children’s safety.”
“Now we’ve confiscated her toys and she’s lucky not to get a detention.”

How much profit has she already made from these – and presumably previous such business dealings?

So what price children’s safety?

We have discussed the fact that Amazon and other online suppliers are selling electrical products fitted with the wrong sort of plug: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/plugs-two-pin-british-amazon-electrical-appliances/

The various workarounds to make these products usable in the UK can result in the risk of fire or electrocution. Patrick Steen has pushed Which? to look into the problem and passed on feedback from Amazon. I believe that the current position is that we are eligible to refunds and Amazon will instruct Marketplace traders to remove products from sale if they don’t conform to the relevant regulations.

I want to see Which? take this further, so that Amazon and other companies can be prosecuted if they fail to take responsibility for ensuring that the traders (and Amazon itself in some cases) fails to comply with the regulations. This has gone on for long enough.

Simply advising us we can have a refund if we buy a fake product is a joke, isn’t it? It does nothing to address the problem. How many will know their charger, phone battery, toy, is a fake – until the danger lurking within it causes injury? We need to put a stop to this practice.
@gmartin, are Which? prepared to tackle this with some vigour?

As I have said on many occasions, this is why we need independent assessment of products.

Until we have mandatory registration of new products, it would help to sign up to receive recall information. Electrical Safety First is restricted to electrical products, but these represent many of the products recalled: https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/

Most of us would be wary of buying electrical goods from a market stall, yet happy to use an Amazon ‘Marketplace’ trader, presumably because we assume that Amazon will intervene if there is a problem. They did not intervene when I had a safety issue with two Marketplace traders.

You cannot prevent illegal imports – non-compliant products brought into the UK (and EU) are exactly that. Having independent assessment would make no difference to those engaged in this activity. We can only deal with them by policing at import points and in the retail outlets. Trading Standards need resourcing and rebuilding to do this job. They will know many of the rogues in their area, but need to have stringent penalties to impose to make the trade less worthwhile.

The Amazon Marketplace is more difficult, but if Amazon were held responsible for anything sold with their assistance, even if they don’t sell it directly, we might make progress. Who is afraid of tackling them?

I believe that Amazon are responsible because they are taking our money via their website, even if most of it is passed on to the retailer. It would be interesting to see this tested in law.

In my view it is necessary to examine products in use for safety. I’m fed-up seeing recalls for plug-in devices that are at risk of falling apart because the case may not be properly glued together. I am not just referring to cheap products but well-known brands. I have had three examples in the past two years and the power supply for a DAB radio fell apart when I lent it to a friend to test his signal. In the past we would have used screws to hold plastic cases, but adhesive is quick and cheap.

We seem to agree. However well we design international safety standards, policing a system is essential to detect non-compliant products and take appropriate action. Which? should be campaigning to restore a properly-resourced Trading Standards, national and local, to protect the interests and safety of consumers, in my view.
@gmartin, what is Which?’s view on this as a priority to pursue?

A fair number of us have been pushing for Trading Standards to be adequately funded. I suspect that much of the time of TS is taken up by trying to protect us from dangerous and counterfeit goods. BBC Fake Britain continues to provide examples: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011f8m5

@gmartin, thank you George. Good to have a quick response 🙂

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As someone that works in retail I agree with all of this but the best way to get around it all don’t shout and the manager or rock up and abuse the staff in the store we are more than happy to help nice people but if your horrible person the will try are hardest to make things difficult so so the proses takes longer, so just remember nice people always get what they want

I thought the first law of retail was “The customer is always right even when they’re wrong”.

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Too many do not know anything at all about things they buy and Rely on “Experts ” to tell them Experts who themselves know nothing only sales blurb

I think it is important to know whether or not those Experts have commercial ties ( and/or other axes to grind).

There are plenty of websites extolling the virtues of a product that turn out to be run by the people selling it.

Very often a website will look like a magazine article with a link to the product. So-called celebrities might say how wonderful the product is with a link to a ‘free trial’ that you can only return if you haven’t used it. You can then find yourself locked into buying expensive stuff on a regular basis that is hard to get out of.

If something is too good to be true, it usually is, so thoroughly check out the products and any names associated with them before committing yourself.

There will be plenty of horror stories on forums if the product is dodgy.

P.S. this wasn’t directed at bishbut or Derek.

alfa – no offence taken – if anything, I think your post is amplifying what I said 🙂

Many believe all they find on websites as many believe all they read in newspapers etc. Too many gullible people in this world who cannot think or decide anything for themselves

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Can anyone tell me my partner bought me a gold knecklace on line but it is too short (chain) and i dont wear yellow gold. The box (cardboard) has a personalised metal tag stuck to it – can it be returned as the jewlery its self is not personalised?

Yes, Gina – because the jewellery was bought on-line. Your partner should do it quickly as you have fourteen days from when he received the item to reject the purchase [and he has a further fourteen days in which to physically return it]. The seller might be able to refuse a refund on the entire cost of the box [if it has any significant value] or you could keep that if you like it, but the seller must allow return of the jewellery. Your partner is not obliged to accept a credit note and is entitled to a full refund of the cost of the necklace. He will almost certainly have to pay for safe wrapping and secure signed-for postage with proof of delivery. I would recommend you use the biggest padded envelope you can get [to reduce the risk of misappropriation] and tape it up well. The value of the consignment will have to be declared at the Post Office or to any other carrier.

Ive orderd a 3 seater settee and a 2 off a site on facebook called mcc suppliers they deliverd the wrong one it is to small i have rang them but they kerp fobbing me off and they have blocked me on facebook what do i do

I suggest you contact your local Citizens Advice, Tracey. This page will help you find it: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Best of luck.

If this is MCC Suppliers Ltd of 14 Riversway, Main St. Lancaster I’d also see if you get any response from Lancashire Trading Standards on 01772 533569.

We have just had two new composite doors fitted. They were leaking in water through the glass.The manufacturer sent out an engineer to solve the leak which we hope he has. He stated that the doors were incorrectly fitted and the frames were bent during installation. He is sending a full report to his office. We now notice that the walls are damp inside the frame meaning they are not sealed correctly. We are now in week two from installation and today I have sent the installer an e mail with my concerns stating he should get a copy of the report via his supplier. We have ask that they re fit to manufacture guidelines.
On the plus side we have not paid a penny yet and do not intend to do so until they are fully installed as to manufacturers instructions. If they are not put right I intend to get them replaced by another supplier and he can take them away afterwards.

I’m interested in your result. I have same issue with safe style uk Door. Been out 8 times and replaced door which is still leaking. I’m paying Barclays for the products and still not right.
Again what can be done.