December has nearly arrived and Norfolk’s high streets are filling up and stores are opening later. It can only mean one thing – the rush for Christmas gifts is upon us.
But the scramble for presents at Christmas also results in a higher proportion of counterfeit goods being sold than at any other time of year, and quite often we don’t even know what we’re buying is fake.
So how can you steer clear of phoney items this festive season and just why are counterfeit goods such a bad thing? Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards have a step-by-step consumer guide to making sure you get tipped off and not ripped off this winter.
No-one wants their loved ones to unwrap gifts that are fake, dangerous or of poor quality this Christmas but if a present is counterfeited, it can be all three.
Counterfeit goods can sometimes be difficult to detect but they aren’t just unsafe and unable to work but very often they aren’t refundable. Not only that, it can be a contributor for retailers having to make job cuts or local businesses going bust if people are buying items that are funding criminal organisations.
Our job at Trading Standards isn’t to tell you how or where to do your Christmas shopping but we are here to help you make sure everything you buy is genuine and legal.
So we’ve put together a 10-step guide for how your gifts can ensure you have a merry Christmas this winter:
- Safety first
Children’s toys that are missing safety instructions or are incomplete should immediately be deemed as unsafe – look for the Lion Mark for a stamp of quality. Similarly, any electrical items without warnings or instructions and gas, oil or paraffin heaters without the correct documentation are a hazard and shouldn’t be purchased.
- Beware of bargains
Counterfeit items can often be a lot cheaper than you’d find elsewhere. If the price seems like it’s too good to be true then your suspicions should be aroused.
- Don’t put up with poor packaging
Poor quality packaging is often a good indicator that an item is not 100% genuine. If you find something that’s damaged on the outside, what’s on the inside could well be damaged as well.
- Have a quick spell check
Being close to the real thing isn’t good enough. A well-known brand that’s not spelt correctly or a slightly altered logo will mean you’re probably buying something that’s not up to scratch.
- Judge a gift by its cover
DVDs and CDs are two of the most commonly counterfeited goods every Christmas. If you suspect that the cover of a DVD or CD looks like it may have been photocopied then don’t take it home.
- Check your drinks
Make sure there are health warnings on the bottle and the label is of good quality. Check for a Duty Stamp as well – it shows that tax has been paid, or will be paid, on the drink. Check here for more info on alcohol and cigarettes.
- A stitch in time saves nine
Does the stitching on the label, or anywhere else, on an item of clothing look shoddy and unlikely to last a wash without falling apart? If it does then steer clear.
- Don’t get caught up on the web
Lots of people do their Christmas shopping online now, which of course means you can’t actually see your items before you by them. If you’re unsure about what you’re ordering then just ask Howard – the online shopping assistant who can help you avoid fraudulent web traders and will also offer further shopping advice.
- Know your trader
Buying counterfeit goods is always more likely if you’re getting your Christmas presents from internet auction sites or in a ‘face to face’ transaction at a market than at a major retailing outlet. That’s not to say you should immediately be suspicious of these types of sellers, just be aware that what you’re getting might not always be top-notch.
- Keep your receipts
It’s classic advice but it still holds true. Always ask for a receipt where you can, and add the fact that you’ll be buying it as a gift. You’ll then get a gift receipt, which looks like a normal receipt, but doesn’t show prices and payment details. It also gives the recipient of the gift better options if they need to exchange or return it.
And of course we’re here to help as well. You can give Citizen’s Advice a call for guidance on consumer issues on 08454 04 05 06 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re looking for free and confidential advice on how to shop safely this Christmas, and for guidance on a range of other consumer issues, you can visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Click here for a list of bureau locations in Norfolk and for the chance to search for your nearest bureau.
If you have a consumer complaint then you can complete a confidential online form with the Citizens Advice Bureau and they can help resolve it.