THE scale of the trade in counterfeit goods – and the cost to the UK’s economy – is unknown, because no national database exists, an SR News enquiry has found.
We found that while details of local sales and seizures are recorded by the trading standards departments run by local authorities, information is not collated or analysed centrally, so the national scale of the overall problem remains effectively unknown.
As a result, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) is calling on the Government for a strategic restructure of how the UK tackles the issue.
The CTSI, which is the professional body for trading standards, is understood to consider the lack of a national database around counterfeit goods as unhelpful, because that means it is impossible to put a total figure on the loss to consumers or to individual sectors targeted by counterfeiters – fashion, for example.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Sunderland trading standards said: “Brand holders may be financially damaged by the actions of counterfeiters, and the public may also be put at risk by counterfeit goods; for example, fake-branded electrical goods may pose a serious safety risk to users.
“We would urge the public to purchase goods only from reputable suppliers and to be aware that an apparently cheap item is not a bargain if the goods are not genuine.”
A stall worker selling designer bags in Jacky White’s Market, Sunderland, said: “Sometimes the copied designer brand is manufactured and released in the stalls before the launch of the original fashion designer product.”
But she added: “How can the copied version of the original product be called a copy when it has been released on the shelf before the original product?”
We asked how consumers might recognise the difference between counterfeit goods before buying them.
A worker at a Jacky White’s jewellery stall said sometimes it is very easy, explaining: “Sometimes the locket of a counterfeit designer necklace will open in the opposite direction to how the locket opens in the original designer necklace.”
SR News did approach several trading standards departments for further information, including Sunderland and Newcastle, but received no responses.