Presentation to United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

In 2007, the UNECE Working Party on Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies adopted Recommendation M on Use of Market Surveillance Infrastructure as a Complementary Means to Protect Consumers and Users against Counterfeit Goods. This recommendation establishes the importance of having all agencies at the border working together to combat counterfeit products.

On 21 February 2023, the partnership approach of the NMG was highlighted in a presentation by NMG Chair, Gavin Terry, at a meeting of UNECE to review and discuss Recommendation M 15 years after its introduction.  The presentation looked at various successful NMG initiatives including Real Deal and Tick Box. More information is here: Market surveillance role in combatting counterfeit products | UNECE

Crackdown on counterfeits as UK shoppers hunt for bargains

  • Enforcement campaign launched with Meta to remove hundreds of potential counterfeit listings from Instagram.
  • New polling shows that just over 1 in 4 are considering or intending to buy fake products this year2 while over two fifths (45%) of people have reported problems after purchase
  • Electrical devices among top targets for consumers tempted to buy fakes
  • Don’t Blow Christmas campaign hopes to save shoppers at Christmas this year by urging consumers to avoid faulty and hazardous counterfeit electricals

 A crackdown by enforcement bodies and Meta has been launched to remove listings of potential counterfeit products from Instagram. The listings cover counterfeit electrical goods – such as phone accessories and potentially dangerous chargers – as well as fake clothing and fashion accessories, jewellery, tobacco, car parts and copyrighted photographs.

The crackdown – which launched in advance of Black Friday and is still ongoing – comes alongside a revealing new survey1 showing that just over 1 in 4 UK shoppers are considering or intending to buy fake products this year2. Additionally, almost 2 in 5 (37%) said they want to buy the same amount of presents as last Christmas, which could lure more people into unknowingly purchasing cheaper but unsafe counterfeit products.2

 Electrical devices (such as smartphones, tablets or laptops) and accessories (such as chargers and earphones) are among the top targets for consumers planning or tempted to buy fakes this year. These illegally-sold items pose substantial risks for shoppers, as they can be both poor quality, leading to wasted spending, and incredibly dangerous. Previous research by Electrical Safety First found that 98% of fake Apple chargers failed safety tests3, and the consequences can be dire, with recent Home Office data showing 10 UK house fires each day are caused by faulty appliances and leads4.

Shoppers who turn to counterfeits risk, at best, disappointing financial loss but also serious harm. 45% of survey respondents reported problems after buying fakes across all product types with top issues relating to quality and products not being fit for purpose. Similar quality concerns around knock-off, unregulated, electrical goods could have devastating impacts for households this Christmas.

The IPO has launched its Don’t Blow Christmas campaign today (@dontblowchristmas) in advance of the peak online shopping season and is urging people to buy authentic electrical goods from legitimate retailers. The IPO said that it was launching Don’t Blow Christmas to highlight how unregulated illegal electrical products are particularly dangerous and not worth the risk, as they are often unsafe and untested. They warned if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

The enforcement campaign was coordinated by The National Markets Group** for IP Protection, a multi-agency enforcement group that includes the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and National Trading Standards (NTS). Shoppers can be easily deceived to think retailers and their products are legitimate, because they may appear on familiar or trusted e-commerce or social media platforms, so the group worked  with Meta to instigate the takedowns in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Mike Andrews, National Co-ordinator, National Trading Standards eCrime team, said: “Removing counterfeit goods from Instagram means families will be safer this Christmas. Buying fakes can seem like a harmless way to get what you want for less, but counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. Aside from being poor quality, fake electrical goods can be a fire hazard, while copycat toys can be deadly to children as criminals don’t care about safety standards. Even fake designer clothes and accessories cause huge harm as the trade props up organised crime. We’re delighted with the results of this operation as we continue our mission to reduce the harm counterfeiting causes in communities and across society, to people and to legitimate businesses.”

Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive at Electrical Safety First, said: “We urge people to be vigilant against counterfeit goods. It may seem like a bargain but the cost of buying fake electrical items could be that you or a loved one suffer an electric shock, or a fire starts in your home. Many people may not even be aware the products they are considering purchasing are counterfeit, so it’s important they follow the IPO’s tips on tell-tale signs.”

Tips to avoid being duped into purchasing counterfeit products

1) Vet the seller. Do they look official? Have you bought from this seller before, is the website or platform well known? Does the seller have a returns policy? If you are in doubt, look for a genuine online review, not just recommendations from influencers to buy the item.

2) Avoid payments by bank transfer. Always beware of retailers asking for payment to be made via bank transfer. Well known credit card providers like Visa or Mastercard, and services like PayPal offer protection to buyers if the goods don’t arrive or are proven to be counterfeit.

3) Trust your instincts. Does the item on offer look and feel like an authentic product? Sellers of counterfeits often make spelling mistakes in their descriptions and sometimes on the products themselves, which is an obvious warning sign. Spelling and grammar mistakes can indicate fakes!

4) Look for EU and UK safety markings. The safety standards of counterfeit items are poor and can be dangerous, especially when they are shipped from abroad. Do items have EU and UK safety markings? You should always check for the correct age restrictions and hazard warnings on the packaging.

5) Question the price if much cheaper than elsewhere. Whether buying online or in person, always think about the price. Scammers often sell counterfeit goods at discounted prices to make you drop your guard. If the item is significantly cheaper than you’d expect, that’s a good reason for alarm bells to ring. If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you or someone you know has purchased a counterfeit product or suspects that a website is selling counterfeit products, report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.

For more information on how to avoid buying fake electrical products visit