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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.


Business Insider- quoting -first UN Office on Drugs+Crime – almost 70 % of counterfeits come from–the Land of Built to a Price-aka China – US Customs+Excise – in the USA its 87 % of goods come from the Land of Built to a Price. WTO -2 % of all trade worldwide is counterfeit – $25 Billion profit annually. Silk Street Market Beijing – Chinese counterfeit centre . the EU/US view this market as a “soft crime ” . Homeland Security Newswire (USA ) -it threatens the US economy .


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.


Misleading product descriptions are just as much of a problem. Might start saving screenshots and ask retailers for comment…….


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


Malcolm, thank you for the suggestion. Really glad you found this convo interesting. I’ve sent your comments on to our Consumer Rights team for consideration – we’re always glad to hear all your views on issues like this, and keen to collect insight via Which? Conversation. This is exactly why this site is such a valuble resource 🙂


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


I should have added that the US authorities actually checked into what was going on in China and found corruption was rife . Many police authorities there were taking bribes and one group were actually getting small companies to make them and then claiming rewards for “finding ” fakes . But its true Ir’s the Law of Supply+demand . Chinese law states the legal responsibility is on the Importers not the Chinese authorities as they are making some effort to clamp down . The problem being China makes just about everything for the whole world and there are too many factories that manufacture fake goods for them to cope.