Poor quality, potentially unsafe counterfeit goods are putting consumers at risk. Today, World Anti-Counterfeiting Day (8 June), we highlight the dangers of fakes in the toy and nursery industry.

Fake toys

Counterfeit goods are fake items deliberately made to look genuine. The issue of their prevalence within the luxury brand industry is well-documented, less well-known is the significant amount of counterfeits within the toy and nursery sector. European Union (EU) statistics show that toys are one of the top categories of counterfeit products seized by EU customs. Many pass through customs and enter the EU market, ending up in store, on marketplaces, at fairs and car-boot sales. Many more are available online, on websites and well-known online market places. The appeal of such products, of course, lies in their discounted price. This logic however, leads to a false economy with fake goods sometimes not even worth the ‘bargain price’ paid. Aside from the disappointment generated by a poor imitation of a much wanted toy, these items can be extremely dangerous.

Justifiably, quality genuine articles are thoroughly tested (at great cost), but such checks ensure the toy is legal and can cause no harm, delivering safety and confidence within the price tag. Counterfeits, on the other hand, often don’t comply with even basic standards, presenting alarming safety hazards to children. Small, sharp and poorly fixed parts fall off and become choking hazards; low quality paints and glues are often toxic; and poor electrical wiring can lead to electric shocks – just a few common dangers encountered with counterfeit toys. Furthermore, as well as being unsafe, once damaged or broken, there is little hope of recovering your money or replacing the item in question, counterfeit goods are not protected by any warranty.

The tragic case, over 10 years ago now, of the fake infant formula which led to the death of dozens of children in China resulted in an international crackdown on the safety of foodstuffs.

Less exposed however are the large number of baby slings, hammocks and harnesses, car seats, monitors, lotions and oils that are available online and seized by trading standards officers every year. The dangers of these items cannot be sufficiently stressed and the nursery industry, as a whole, and world-wide, works hard to raise awareness of dangers of all of the above.

How to avoid purchasing counterfeit goods

One of the best ways of avoiding purchasing such goods is to always buy from the manufacturer, or the authorised retailer. There are, of course, genuine bargains to be had online and, unfortunately, this is where spotting counterfeits becomes more difficult. Unscrupulous sellers often use genuine photographs, and copy genuine product descriptions meaning the arrival of goods baring little, or no resemblance, to the promised item is a nasty shock. Always look for other people’s comments and reviews. When purchasing from the online marketplaces, look for sellers with a history of good feedback, and ask questions about the merchandise. Beware of items that are being advertised as “wholesale price” or “factory direct”. Pay attention to spelling mistakes, scrutinise packaging and always, always, insist on a secure transaction method. Often a good indicator will be the price, remember the old adage ‘if it seems too good to be true, it probably is’.

If you are unsure about the authenticity of a product, report it; to the seller, the store from which it was purchased and the brand owner. Brand owners work hard to develop safe products and they are seeing their reputations damaged and revenues stolen as a result of this problem. Any information that you can provide them with will be invaluable in their fight against counterfeiting. The Citizens Advice consumer helpline or your local Trading Standards office will be able to provide you with helpful advice and organisations such as Action Fraud and Brand-I are always interested in such matters.

If you are interested in knowing more about counterfeiting, please feel free to contact us – the.lair@snapdragon-ip.com.

SnapDragon Monitoring Ltd works with leading brands to help tackle the sale of counterfeit goods. We monitor the internet for the sale of products that could be putting the health and safety of children and babies at risk.