Polling conducted by CTSI reveals that 79% of UK consumers will be seeking to spend less this Christmas as the cost-of-living crisis deepens, with many turning to cheaper products, including counterfeit goods. The survey of 2,008 people reveals that 5% of shoppers plan to buy counterfeits this Christmas, and 30% are seeking out cheaper products than those they bought last year.
CTSI’s research also reveals that 15% of consumers do not know how to ensure that the goods they are buying online are safe, and a further 48% only know ‘to some extent’ what to look out for.
Counterfeit perfumes have been found to contain dangerous levels of methanol, which can cause irritation to the skin and eyes, and damage to the nervous system. Counterfeit toys have been found to contain illegal levels of phthalates, a plastic-softening chemical than can cause cancer, asthma and fertility problems.
Toys and other electrical items which are operated by lithium-ion button or coin-cell batteries are also a particular concern; by law they must have lockable battery compartments, because if a button battery is swallowed by a child it can cause serious internal injuries.
Products such as electronic scooters that use lithium batteries also pose a risk to safety, and there have been several recent cases of these devices catching fire while charging. Poor-quality Christmas lights have also been known to cause electrical shorts, which lead to house fires.
John Herriman, Chief Executive of CTIS said: “We know that for the vast majority of UK consumers, times are tough right now and the need to save money or spend less is completely understandable. We want to remind people that while fake or counterfeit goods might be tempting, they are often a false economy. Products are rarely manufactured in compliance with safety regulations and can pose a serious risk to health.
“Whether you are shopping on the high street or online, new or second hand, it is important to only buy goods from reputable sellers – not only does this increase the likelihood that the product will be safe, it also means that should there be a fault, you will be entitled to a refund.
“This isn’t about spoiling people’s fun or causing unnecessary alarm; dangerous products can, and do, pose a real threat to people’s lives. If a shoddy electrical device or set of fairy lights catches fire while you and your family are asleep upstairs, a happy time of year could very quickly become something you’ll remember for all the wrong reasons.”
Phil Lewis, Director General at the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), said: “Trading Standards are our front line in making sure that UK consumers and business are protected from those that prey on people’s needs. Criminal counterfeiters will be well aware of the current financial conditions and the fact that consumers with less disposal income will be looking for bargains in the lead up to Christmas.
“These criminals have no morals or conscience, and will think nothing of putting families at risk from faulty and dangerous fake products. During this time ACG will be working hard with our TS colleagues to protect people from this insidious and dangerous criminal trade.”
CTSI is urging consumers to:
- Only shop at reputable retailers and don’t always trust online reviews, which can easily be faked.
- Look for the UKCA mark on products such as toys, electrical goods and cosmetics – this ensures that the product has been tested to comply with safety standards.
- Make sure toys and other goods are suitable for children by checking the age range of the item, and never leave a child unattended with a toy that contains small parts.
- Ensure that any item that uses button batteries has a lockable battery compartment.
- Do not buy fakes or counterfeits – as well as being poor value for money and lining the coffers of criminals, they pose a serious risk to you and your family.