Don’t risk getting a criminal record for selling fake goods

Plymouth City Council’s Trading Standards Team are warning people not to risk selling counterfeit goods for extra money before Christmas after a number of seizures in the city.

There has been a rapid increase in people selling counterfeit goods on social media sites.  These goods include counterfeit trade-marked clothing, trainers, handbags, sunglasses, makeup and electrical goods such as straighteners, hover boards and mobile phones.

Some of the items recently seized.

Some of the items recently seized.

In the UK the trade in fake clothes and shoes alone is costing UK manufacturers, retailers and distributors around £2.6 billion in lost sales and 40,000 jobs every year. Our handbag and luggage-manufacturing sector annually loses £149 million, as a result of counterfeit products, which is nearly 12 per cent of all sales. In addition, the UK’s jewellery and watches manufacturing industry loses £138 million annually as a direct result of counterfeiting.

Councillor Dave Downie, Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities said: “Some of these items are very dangerous.  High levels of lead were found in a recent investigation involving counterfeit MAC makeup.  We have also tested fake branded sunglasses, which have offered no or very little UV protection which could cause eye damage. A number of fake branded straighteners, hover boards and other electrical goods have been known to overheat and cause fires.

“Plymouth’s Trading Standards Officers work hard to protect legitimate businesses and consumers from illegal traders.  The products may look like the real thing but the quality is nowhere near and consumers are often risking their health using them.”

Counterfeiters avoid both the costs incurred and the taxes payable by legitimate companies and pay no VAT, so they can undercut legitimate local retailers.  Small traders selling fake clothing may seem harmless but they are just the tip of a very nasty iceberg.  Behind them are global production and distribution networks run by major criminal gangs, using the huge profits from counterfeiting to fund other serious organised crimes such as drugs, guns and people smuggling, child pornography and even terrorist activity.

Councillor Downie added: “Many of the people selling these products do not realise the trouble they are getting themselves into and if caught they can end up with a criminal record.  Those involved in counterfeiting face a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and unlimited fine.”

Trading Standards Officers interviewed an illegal trader recently who said: “I was only trying to make some extra money as Christmas was fast approaching and being on a very tight budget, things weren’t looking great.

“I didn’t realise how this could ruin my life. I could end up with a criminal record and this could affect me getting a job or starting my own business in the future.  The whole experience scared me. The Police, Trading Standards Officers and a lock smith turned up on my doorstep one morning with a warrant to search my property.

“I didn’t know what to do, how to respond or what to say I was in total shock. I couldn’t stop crying and I felt awful to think that I had crossed the line. I didn’t realise some of the products I was selling could actually harm people. I know now that it’s not worth the risk and I really do urge people only to sell legitimate items.”

There are a number of illegal wholesalers throughout the UK.  Common signs that they are not legitimate include no company documentation/websites; they often trade from storage units or lock ups in hidden locations. They often only sell in bulk quantities and may use a number of different bank accounts to accept payments. Local Trading Standards departments work with the National Trading Standards eCrime Team and share intelligence with the police and other agencies to stop these traders.

If you think you have been sold counterfeit goods or you suspect somebody is selling fake goods, please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.