Avoid a counterfeit Christmas

Christmas shoppers looking for a bargain should be wary of counterfeit goods which flood the market in the run-up to the festive season, the UK Border Agency warned today.

Fake UGG Boots, GHD hair straighteners, iPhones and iPads are among the tens of thousands of counterfeit items that have been seized by officers as they have been brought into the country in recent months.

Grant Miller, UK Border Agency’s Heathrow International Trade Division said: ‘Buyers can be left with products which are at best, inferior to genuine ones and, at worst, harmful or unsafe.

‘We are uncovering all sorts of fake goods, from beauty products to children’s toys, and we’re warning people to be particularly wary of buying cheap items online or from unofficial traders.

‘It’s easy to be tricked into thinking you’re getting a bargain, but in the run-up to Christmas our message is that if something appears too good to be true it probably is.’

Cost to UK economy £1.3 billion

Immigration minister Damian Green said: ‘We are dealing with a huge criminal business. The international trade in counterfeit goods is serious organised crime and, for the gangs behind it, it is low-risk and high-reward.

‘Intellectual property crime is a serious economic threat, and it’s estimated to be worth around £1.3 billion in the UK each year.

‘That is why we have UK Border Agency officers operating 24 hours a day at ports, airports and mail sorting centres and they have seized thousands of counterfeit items that could otherwise have ended up as gifts this Christmas.’

Low quality, dangerous goods

Trading Standards Institute chief executive Ron Gainsford said: ‘In this difficult economic climate money is tight for many of us, but there could be a high price to pay for bargain presents that aren’t the real deal.

‘Trading standards are working hard with other authorities to stop criminals ruining consumers’ festive spirit as millions of low-quality and potentially dangerous counterfeit products are flooding the country in time for Christmas, particularly in markets, car boot sales and online.

‘Check, double check and check again to make sure what you are buying and where you are buying from is the real deal.’

Seizures made by the UK Border Agency in the last year include:

  • 45,000 pairs of fake UGG Boots were found in container freight in Southampton in August – the biggest such seizure in Europe
  • 13,000 items valued at approximately £14.5 million were intercepted at Coventry postal hub – the vast majority of these were bought online and shipped to the UK from abroad
  • a consignment of fake Disney, Hello Kitty, Thomas the Tank Engine and other toys worth around £50,000 were seized in October at the Port of Dover
  • GHD hair straighteners worth more than £310,000 were seized at Manchester International Airport in November leading to the arrest of two men
  • At Heathrow Airport 1,100 seizures were made of items valued at around £10 million in the first eight months of 2011/12 – the same number of seizures as in the whole of 2010/11
  • A month-long operation in June led to the seizure of 15,000 items of counterfeit designer clothing at Stansted Airport

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