/ Shopping

These are not the toys you’re looking for

‘In a warehouse far, far away, toys are being made in preparation for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens…’ Sadly, some of these toys could be fake.

Hard to see, fake merchandise often is. However, the counterfeits were a darn sight easier to spot in the case of the Star Wars merchandise acquired by Wholesale Clearance UK Ltd. No self-respecting Star Wars fan would fall into the trap of snapping up a ‘Toby-one’ figure.

I don’t think Carrie Fisher could have uttered the words ‘Help me Toby-one, you’re my only hope’ with a straight face, do you? Then again, you have to wonder whether the actors didn’t have a hard time reciting George Lucas’ original script in the first place. As Harrison Ford infamously said at the time; ‘You can type this s***, George, but you sure can’t say it’.

Karl Baxter of Wholesale Clearance UK Ltd said of their purchase:

‘We acquired this stock in a bulk lot, and as a big Star Wars fan myself I had high hopes for these figures, especially considering how popular they are with children and collectors alike.

‘We obviously can’t sell these, but as they’re rather amusing we thought we’d still showcase them. It’s just a shame we’ve got so many boxes of them piled up at the back of the warehouse.’

Fake Star Wars toys

Of course, not every fake is going to be as easy to spot as an ‘R2-3PO’ toy. The original Star Wars was largely responsible for spawning a whole industry of film merchandising, and Disney will no doubt take the opportunity to flood the market with even more Star Wars stuff. I mean, Star Wars branding has already been forced onto fruit and veg packaging of all things, so I look forward to seeing what other ideas they come up with. I wonder if any of them will be anywhere near as creative as these rejected Star Wars merchandising ideas?

With this amount of merchandising you’d hope the counterfeits would be one in a million, but with Star Wars being such big business there will no doubt be a lot of criminals out there who have joined the dark side to produce cheap knock-offs.

And there’s also a serious side to this. Fake versions of electronic items can pose a real risk to owners. We’ve seen it already with the significant fire hazard posed by the counterfeit self-balancing scooters (often inaccurately titled ‘hoverboards’), and we could see it with fake Star Wars electronics too. The Jedi Master Lightsaber is expected to be this Christmas’ best seller, so you best remember to keep on your guard.

How to spot fakes

So whether you’re buying Star Wars toys for your children, or you’re a big kid buying figures that’ll never leave their box, watch out for the fakes. Remember our advice on how to spot scam website and read our guide on how to report fake goods too.

In short, try to buy from trusted retailers or websites. Check websites for information about the company’s head office and landline number. Sites that have spelling or grammar mistakes, including in the small print, can indicate that it’s not a professional operation. Never be dazzled by a bargain – if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. And if a Star Wars figure looks a little short to be a storm trooper, it’s probably not the real thing (or it’s Luke Skywalker).

David Andrew Goldstein says:
15 December 2015

But the irony is the real junk is weirder than the fake junk. See as evidence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPsJQ-qGH2A

David says:
15 December 2015

The irony is the real stuff is just as ridiculous as the fake stuff. See what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPsJQ-qGH2A

“Sites that have spelling or grammar mistakes, including in the small print, can indicate that it’s not a professional operation. Never be dazzled by a bargain – if the price is good to be true, it probably is.”

I hate to point out that missing words are also a give-away.

My favourite was a “Genuine Nikon Ion Battery” on ebay.
The accompanying picture had IOM printed on the battery.

Not good, this is. The future is clouded; there is a disturbance in the force. Care you must take. Go to WeToysAre and seek out writer of signs. The force is weak in them, and Syntax cannot gain control. You must use the force to deal with Layder of Hose-en, after which destroy Empire direct you will. Tell no one about this but Chew Baccy all the time. If good is weather, then Storm Troopers you will not need.

May the Clause be with you.

We keep on being warned about fake goods and services, there are also many tv programmes about them. These warnings and programmes never end with “We have passed all our finding to the police who are going to investigate”.

I would like to hear is what is being done to stop these fake goods. What is the company Wholesale Clearance UK Ltd doing with their fake stuff?

Hopefully Trading Standards will take appropriate action. I see we now have ‘National Trading Standards’, though I do not know the significance of this change.

We should expect Trading Standards to prosecute people who sell fake goods. It is their responsibility to protect consumers and only when traders realise they have a responsibility for the goods they sell, and are penalised if they fail in that responsibility, might we get somewhere.

National Trading Standards was set up in 2012 by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape. Our role is to provide leadership, influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment nationally, regionally and locally. We bring together trading standards representatives from England and Wales to prioritise, fund and coordinate national and regional enforcement cases. I wonder how effective it has been? Does Which? work with them?

Here is the most recent annual report published by National Trading Standards. It gives an overview of their work. I would like to know how many cases referred to them by Citizens Advice are not pursued, either because of a lack of resources or for good reason, but the report does not help me.

I searched the report for references to toys and found this: “There was a significant increase in the percentage of non-electrical products assessed as unsafe/non- compliant. These consisted mainly of a variety of toys and LED bulbs. The team identified LED bulb compliance levels as an emerging issue which was referred to the Single Point of Contact.” Obviously there is a lack of proof reading because LED bulbs are hardly non-electrical products, but I am not surprised by this comment since other Conversations have pointed to poor quality LED lighting products on sale to the public.

National Trading Standards details, and their 2014 annual report, can be found on their website: nationaltradingstandards.uk. “News” details some activities. They have two databases and link to regional trading standards. The public cannot refer problems to them, only through local TS and therefore, most often, the overworked CAB.

Would Which? like to tell us how they deal with National Trading Standards. Is there exchange of information and co-operation?

Vynor Hill says:
16 December 2015

Sadly, there are many countries in the world who not only turn a blind eye to counterfeiting but also defend it, when challenged. Famously, one such denied their look-alike BMWs had any resemblance to the real thing. But the real damage is, of course, the bad electrical look-alikes which catch fire, the toxic materials in children’s toys and the machinery which can disintegrate and cause serious injury. If it’s popular, you can guarantee that someone out there will be trying to cash in at our expense. Trading standards can only do so much to stop this, and, the internet allows fakes to go for sale to the unwary.
While the manufacturers of these many and varied copies are protected by their own countries, they can not be stopped at source. That doesn’t stop this country trading with those countries, using a virtual blindfold to blank out the conflicting moral dilemmas while shaking hands on the red carpet in public.
I wonder what would happen if we tried to send such merchandise to them? I hope we don’t ever make any of it, but how would they react if their citizens found burning items damaging their houses, and their children choking on poorly made toys. Perhaps they treat their own people in the same way? This couldn’t-care-less attitude reflects the lack of respect these countries have for the rest of the world. We don’t matter, so they are free to abuse our desire for a bargain if it suits their purpose. If we are fool enough to buy it, they will make it, amorally undisturbed at what they are doing.

Please have a look at photos and article about the unsafe ‘hoverboard’: http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/guides-and-advice/electrical-items/hoverboards/

If you have an unfused plug on one of these or any other electrical goods, stop using it immediately and report it to Trading Standards. The partially sleeved ‘earth’ pin on the plug is another obvious sign of a counterfeit product.

Are National Trading Standards satisfied that the entire consignment has been intercepted and that none of these dangerous products are still out there?

I very much doubt that they can possibly know, John; the government has slashed Trading Standards’ and HMRC’s budgets so deeply and so frequently that it surprises me they have enough personnel to man reception, let alone mount a raid. In fact, the phrase ‘tip of the iceberg’ probably understates the situation.