Beware fake goods at bank holiday markets, warn councils

Some of the hidden dangers of counterfeit goods include fake perfume that can often burn skin or leave a nasty rash and may contain lead; fake sunglasses which can offer no UVA protection; electrical goods which are a fire risk; flammable children's clothes, and unsafe children's toys with unsuitable small parts that can fall off and pose a choking hazard.


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Bargain-hunters are being warned by councils to avoid buying fake or shoddy goods from markets, car boot sales and other outlets this Bank Holiday weekend which could cause them harm and leave them out of pocket.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, says an increasing number of markets and car boot sales – known hotspots for counterfeit goods - are expected to be held this weekend and is urging people to watch out for dodgy sellers and report any suspicious items to the police or their local council’s trading standards service.

Some of the hidden dangers of counterfeit goods include fake perfume that can often burn skin or leave a nasty rash and may contain lead; fake sunglasses which can offer no UVA protection; electrical goods which are a fire risk; flammable children's clothes, and unsafe children's toys with unsuitable small parts that can fall off and pose a choking hazard.

The counterfeit goods trade is rising, with footwear and clothing accounting for the worst-hit items, followed by leather items and electrical equipment, according to the latest industry report.

Huge hauls of fake designer handbags and trainers, sunglasses, perfume and jewellery are among counterfeit items recently seized from rogue market traders by council trading standards teams. Dangerous phone chargers which could cause electric shocks have also been uncovered.

Councils will be continuing their efforts to stop people falling victim to rogue traders selling fake and dangerous goods this Bank Holiday weekend and throughout the year.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

"Markets and car boot sales are great family events for bargain hunters, but they can also be a magnet for dodgy traders, especially over busy Bank Holiday weekends, where they can sell dangerous and poor quality goods to unsuspecting customers.

"Criminals selling illegal, fake goods ruin the reputation of genuine stall holders, harm legitimate businesses, cost the economy millions in lost tax revenue and often fund organised criminal gangs and modern slavery.

“Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime – unsafe, poor quality products can put lives at risk - which is why councils put a lot of work into preventing the sale of these items in local markets and online to ensure that shoppers avoid buying fake goods, get a fair deal and aren't ripped off or put in danger.

“Counterfeit designer goods can be hard to identify, but a suspiciously low price is often a tell-tale sign. Councils won’t hesitate to take action against anyone found selling counterfeit goods and we encourage people to report any suspected rogue trader selling them.”

Case studies

  • Fake designer handbags and trainers with a street value up to £23,000 were seized from a market trader’s van and home garage. A total of 776 fake handbags and merchandise, including Chanel, Mulberry, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors and Prada, were seized by Brent & Harrow Trading Standards. Officers found evidence that the trader had operated a stall at Bovingdon Market in Hertfordshire and was said to be selling the fake bags for £20-£30. He was prosecuted and ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £1,147 and given 60 hours of unpaid work.
  • A total of 1,276 counterfeit items with a retail value of £84,800 were seized by Kent County Council trading standards after they caught rogue traders selling fake designer clothing, including trainers, belts, handbags and sunglasses, at a market in Kent. Two men were given suspended prison sentences and community service orders, while a third man was given a community service order.
  • An investigation by West Sussex Trading Standards has uncovered dangerous phone chargers being sold in the county. Officers visited 25 independent shops, from which they bought 23 different chargers, of which nine failed to comply with safety standards and seven were at risk of causing electric shocks. The unsafe chargers are being recalled and officers are continuing to work with other trading standards services across the country to investigate the importer who was based outside of West Sussex.
  • A woman was given a suspended prison sentence after selling counterfeit clothing, footwear, perfume, jewellery and make-up with an estimated sale value of £22,800, following a prosecution by Sunderland City Council. The court heard that every room in the woman’s house, apart from the toilet, was filled with counterfeit goods for sale.
  • Redbridge Council seized 160 counterfeit mobile phones valued at £120,000 during a day-long crackdown on illegal goods after the team investigated 20 premises across the borough.
  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough trading standards seized a large quantity of counterfeit Sandisk memory cards after carrying out inspections at two businesses.

Notes to editors

  1. Trade in counterfeit goods has risen steadily in the last few years and now stands at 3.3 per cent of global trade in 2016, up from 2.5 per cent in 2013, the previous year in which data was collected, according to the latest report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office. Footwear and clothing top the trade in fake goods, followed by leather goods and electrical equipment.