Counterfeiters are turning away from traditional methods such as market stalls and shops, and are increasingly using the internet to sell fake goods.
According to the 2012/13 Intellectual Property Office (IPO) Annual Report, around seven million people per month visit websites offering illegal content in the UK.
Consumers are being fooled by impressive looking online ‘shops’ which are apparently UK-based and sell products directly to consumers at discounted prices.
Consumers are also being targeted by companies advertising products through social media, using multiple Facebook groups linking through to websites selling fake goods.
By buying fake goods online, consumers are helping to fund criminal activity but could also be risking their health.
Trading Standards e-commerce expert Paul Miloseski-Reid warned: ‘Consumers are playing with fire purchasing electrical products from unknown sellers in an effort to bag a bargain.’
For more information on counterfeit goods, read our guide on spotting fake goods.
Fake good dangers
Counterfeit products can be dangerous for your health. For example, fake sunglasses may not carry the correct UV protection for your eyes, and fake toothbrush heads could cause injuries to your mouth.
Trading Standards officers also warn of products that have been purchased by consumers directly from non-EU manufacturers, which are bypassing the normal safety checks that would occur if a UK wholesaler was bringing these products into the UK.
Fake goods are often sold at low and tempting prices. Don’t buy something that’s far below the recommended retail price, and always buy from reputable retailers.
The differences between real and fake can often be very nuanced and can be difficult to tell just by looking at them.
Our gallery below compares fake and real goods, with the fake goods always on the left hand side.
Reporting fake goods
If you’ve spotted a counterfeit product, report it to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06, or online via their online enquiry form.
You can also report a website that you think may be selling counterfeit goods to Brand-i.
Brand-i is a directory website in partnership with the Trading Standards Institute, which lists the online shops that sell genuine branded products.
For more information, see our guide on reporting fake goods.
- Have you ever bought a fake good? Tell us on Which? Conversation
- Find out how to spot a Facebook scam with our real-life example
- Solve your everyday consumer rights problems on our site