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Shocking fakes: Police urge shoppers to keep it real in counterfeit electrical crackdown

  • When shoppers purchase genuine electricals from a reputable seller they’re paying for more than the item, they’re paying for safety
  • Genuine electrical goods are put through rigorous safety checks to prevent electric shocks and fires
  • Consumers of counterfeits are at risk of personal details being compromised by fraudsters

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), in partnership with BaByliss, Electrical Safety First, the Intellectual Property Office, the City of London Corporation’s Trading Standards, UL and London Fire Brigade, is urging shoppers to buy electrical products from reputable sellers.

The report, produced by Electrical Safety First, shows that out of 1,807 people, 30% of consumers surveyed had been duped by a counterfeit electrical that had been advertised as genuine. Now PIPCU is keen to show that purchasing from reputable retailers offers consumers the reassurance their item will be genuine whilst meeting UK safety standards.

What is the true cost?

In May 2018, a fire broke out at a flat in North West London, leading to around twenty people being evacuated. London Fire Brigade investigators believe an unbranded mobile phone charger caused the fire. The fire was discovered by a neighbour living in a flat at the rear of the building who heard a smoke alarm and then saw flames through the window. The flat, on the third floor of the five storey building, was badly damaged with six fire engines and around 40 firefighters attending.

There’s more at stake

Traders who import and sell unsafe counterfeit electricals should be aware that they are committing offences, not only under the Trade Marks Act but also under safety legislation that is enforced by Trading Standards. 

The dangers of purchasing a counterfeit electrical have been well publicised, including fires and electric shock injuries. However, PIPCU is warning consumers that there’s more at stake when buying fake goods online. PIPCU is warning the public about the consequences of providing personal details to online criminals who then use them to commit fraud such as registering counterfeit websites.  This can result in online shoppers unwittingly becoming victims of identity theft. 

Protect yourself

First and foremost, PIPCU is asking people to trust their instincts - if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Legitimate designer items are rarely discounted.

Consumers should also ensure they check the spelling and grammar on websites and of the URL – often the people behind these sites do not pay a lot of attention or care to this detail. Fraudsters may also try to deceive shoppers by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address. Just because a web address ends with ‘.co.uk’ does not mean the seller is based in the UK. If there is no address supplied or there is just a PO Box or email, consumers should be wary.

How can you get involved?

Over the coming week, PIPCU will be publishing interactive social media content on its Twitter account where you can test your ability to spot fake electricals. Using the hashtag #shockingfakes, PIPCU will be sharing top tips for people to protect themselves and how to make sure people are buying from a reputable seller.

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit’s Detective Chief Inspector Teresa Russell said: “We are empowering people to take action and accept nothing less than a safe electrical item.

“A counterfeit may be cheaper but peace of mind and safety are so important. Consumer safety is at the heart of our work.”

Director of Copyright and Enforcement at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Ros Lynch, said:

“Partnership working is vital in the fight against intellectual property crime. Together with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) we are working to identify sources of counterfeit electrical goods, and educate the public about the dangers involved in buying such items. Sadly, evidence shows that there can be serious safety implications.”

European Brand Protection Manager for Conair, Mike Consterdine said: “At BaByliss we take a zero tolerance policy towards counterfeits. Many counterfeit electrical products are unsafe and do not meet the standards that you would expect from a BaByliss branded product.

“We would urge all consumers to be vigilant when purchasing products online and always try to buy from an authorised retailer. Remember if the price looks too good to be true, it most likely is.”


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