/ 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.


That was left out for dramatic effect 😉

NB: Spotted this last night, thank you John


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.


In related news, you should also avoid fake Nutribullets this Christmas:

Counterfeit Nutribullets and other fake electricals are putting consumers in danger, according to a safety charity.

Electrical Safety First carried out a test to see what would happen to a fake Nutribullet when a piece of ice or stone got stuck in the blades. In just over four seconds, the cheap rip-off overheated and exploded.



It’s worth keeping an eye on the Electrical Safety First website mentioned by Patrick: http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk

This site has a searchable list of recalled electrical products, including the self-balancing scooter listed above. This is listed in the Toys, Kitchen Appliances and Chargers and Adaptors categories, but a recall of a Halfords product is listed only in Chargers and Adaptors. It’s well worth browsing this website because it could save your life. I have just found that one of the products I own is affected by a recall. Ironically it is a socket tester that I use to check that mains sockets are safe.


This highlights an aspect of Which? the largest consumer body in Europe.

I have long felt that it is actually quite lightweight with lots of attention paid to commercial ventures[failing] whilst ignoring the very practical aspects.

For instance a list of where to look for recalled items cannot be found on Which? by searching the Directory. Any subscriber to Which? should be able to find this sort of information easily.

The Nutribullet experiment mentioned here and reported by BBC Radio 5 originally illustrates that Which? is behind the curve.

There is a major and fundamental flaw in how Which? is presented on the Web. Wikipedia shows how you can provide quick access to loads of information and yet with Which? it is actually a nightmare. Put in Nutribullet now and you will be given a choice of 23 articles to look at. This does not include todays warning.

Nobody wants to trawl 23 articles which could be compacted to a single entry and links to the testing AND of course be quickly updated for a warning.

You get the picture and can try it yourself.

BTW Wikipedia is faintly lacking : ) but still interesting:


Thanks for the feedback deisel. I’ll pass it on. You may find this website useful, where you can register your appliances and be alerted of any recalls: http://www.registermyappliance.org.uk/

We referenced it earlier in the year when we investigated appliance fires: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/faulty-kitchen-appliances-electricfires/ It’s also backed by the government.


I am very cautious about using a service that is connected with or run by AMDEA – a trade association – to register appliances despite the potential benefits. I am concerned that they could pass on my contact information for marketing purposes.

RecallUK had a useful website covering a wide range of recalled products, but as a charity without sufficient funding, they had to withdraw their service.

The recall service run by DVSA for cars seems excellent and provides a good example of what we need for all household goods.


Thanks wavechange for mentioning this site which is new to me. They identified , as I and others have, that this is what the largest consumer body in Europe should be running.

Of course my tweak would be the possibility that subscribers sign up for email advices for their actual equipment, and of course recalls triggered by Which?’s data returns where readers highlight problems.

“CommsTracker is the owner of the RecallUK website. In 2010 we became aware of a major issue with product recalls, there was no website that provided details of all consumer recalls. We thought this was unacceptable and decided to do something about it, we created the RecallUK website.

We provided the website as a free service to the public:-

It listed all recalls so that it was easy for consumers to find recall information.

We provided industry leading data and analysis of recalls. Developed best practices for manufacturers. Provided analysis and proposals for critical recall issues to manufacturers and government.
We worked with a number of manufacturers to improve their understanding of recall issues and how to make them more effective.
We were recognised as leading experts on product recalls and regularly appeared on TV, Radio and national press providing insight and understanding of recalls.

We ran RecallUK for 4 years with no revenue and with CommsTracker bearing the cost of the research and running of the website. We are currently in the process of selling off some of RecallUK’s assets. “


Hi Diesel – We can certainly agree that we need a way of being informed about recalls of household products but I wonder if it is reasonable to expect Which? to take this on. DVSA – a government agency – does this for cars. Two friends have told me about recalls on their cars recently.

The remit of Which? seems to be a bit of a secret but I think their approach is to establish what needs to be done rather than get involved themselves.

Do keep an eye on Electrical Safety First. It’s far from perfect but it is a useful resource. The EC has a far more comprehensive service but is rather user-hostile.


What Which? could (and perhaps should) be doing is liaising with Govt (Minister for Consumer Affairs when he has time) and relevant bodies like National Trading Standards and at the very least get links set up to databases that concern defective products, services and recalls. It is surely the consumers body that should be coordinating this out of its £95 million income provided by its members. Perhaps it could set up these databases itself instead of losing money on a mortgage operation, providing a will service and other fringe activities that seem to take preference over its core remit (or so I see it). Mr Grumpy again I’m afraid 🙁 but I would like to see an organisation that really works hard on basic consumer issues.


Thats exactly it.

IF which? is not going to be involved [as it should] then it should at least provide subscribers with a ready list of where to go for information on ALL products be they held in several databases.

However as Malcolm points out Which/ has the money [and has had the incomes] to become the first point of reference for information and product reports. Instead we have a cumbersome on-line interface, commissioned testing that revolves around testing a single sample when it is new, and a complete lack of follow up of reader reviews.

It really has to get a grip and I am pleased that surveys will now address usage where appropriate so reliability etc can be more based on relevant fact.

there is actually still a major transparency problemas to what is going on as we were supplied with hints of good things to come at the AGM last month but no details. I shudder to think which country [or scheme] we are investing in now!!!

Two new businessmen were appointed to Council at the beginning of December according to Companies House – one wonders if announcing their pending appointments at the AGM might have reminded people of how impotent shareholders have become in controlling Council and their appointees. – and the multi-million bonus to four executives.


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.


I thought you might be interested in the following story:

A haul of unsafe Christmas lights destined for homes across the country has been recovered during a raid by Trading Standards officers.

The goods, described as potentially lethal by Enfield Council staff in north London, also included laptop chargers, shavers and tablet computers.

Some 20,000 items were seized during the warehouse raid, having been imported from outside the EU.
Lord Toby Harris, chairman of National Trading Standards, said: “I applaud everyone involved in this successful raid, which kept these potentially dangerous products from falling into the hands of unsuspecting consumers, simply looking for the perfect presents for friends and relatives this Christmas.

“At this time of year it can be tempting to look for a bargain, but we would urge consumers to be on their guard. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

“Consumer safety is a top priority for National Trading Standards and I hope that the criminals involved in peddling these unsafe items will now be brought to justice.”

Enfield Council’s cabinet member for environment, Daniel Anderson, said: “There is no doubt in my mind that these products would have been given as gifts by unsuspecting consumers this Christmas or used to decorate homes round the borough by people completely unaware of the potential risks involved.

“It is completely unacceptable to peddle products which do not meet safety standards because you simply do not know what danger they pose. It is repugnant, illegal and morally bankrupt and I am delighted we have played a full part on stopping these products from flooding the market this Christmas.”

Jim Stevenson, head of HMRC taskforces, said: “We don’t want to have to seize goods, especially at this time of year, but the minority of unscrupulous traders who don’t declare the full amount of tax on these imported goods must shoulder the responsibility for these actions.

“HMRC will use its powers to seize goods to stop this type of fraud and make sure there is a level playing field for legitimate and honest businesses trading in the UK. Hard-working, law-abiding businesses should not have to compete against those who can undercut them by cheating on their taxes.

“This new taskforce will help us to ensure individuals and businesses who sell online from abroad, but don’t declare the correct amount of tax on goods sold, will pay what they owe like the rest of us do.”


Thanks for this Patrick. I hope that the traders to whom these seized products were going can be identified and prosecuted for intent to supply unsafe products that do not comply with European safety standards. Unless traders are brought to justice they will carry on evading those laws that protect us.

Do we know if goods are tracked to the importers and distributors for action to be taken?


Thanks Patrick. One of the best indicators that goods might be dangerous is that they are cheap, but most people are keen to look for a bargain.

I am particularly concerned about Amazon allowing unheard of companies to sell electrical goods under their well-known name and then refusing to take action if a safety issue is reported.


Recently fake Disney toys were seized but were being sold at normal prices – they were in so much demand that people apparently were looking for anywhere that sold them.

I am also concerned, as are many others, that Amazon Marketplace allows illegal (non-safety compliant) products into the UK. If, when an incident was reported, they removed that vendor from their listing I would feel a bit happier. Presumably Amazon make money from the listings and/or the sales that are generated, so why do they not have responsibility for ensuring traders behave responsibly?

Are Amazon too big? Perhaps Which? would like to comment on whether or not acion can be taken, and by whom.


Contributor @socketman has been pursuing the problem of dangerous electrical products for years and found plenty of unsafe products on the Amazon UK website.

I’m very grateful for information about dodgy electrical goods in the magazine and in Conversation articles, but would be grateful if we could be told whether or not Which? intends to pursue these issues. It’s over three years since we had the first Convo about electrical goods with non-compliant two-pin plugs was posted but nothing seems to have happened other than these seem to have become more common.


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.