How to spot, avoid and report counterfeit products

There is an ever-increasing range of goods being illegally copied. Evidence shows that buying fake or counterfeit products has a negative effect on the community by:

  • rewarding organised crime
  • forcing legitimate traders out of business 
  • bringing illegal, faulty and dangerous products into the home 
  • attracting those involved in criminal activity to Royal Greenwich.

Signs that goods may be suspect

Here are some things to look out for to help you spot fake goods:

  • CDs and DVDs with poorly printed or photocopied inlay cards, no artist's name on the disc face and no outer cellophane wrapping
  • perfumes with no cellophane wrapping, poor printing and no batch code numbers
  • items of clothing that have no branded neck labels, swing tickets, poor logo embroidery or inconsistent colours
  • bottles of spirits with no batch number, crooked labels, manufacturer or distributor information and inconsistent fill heights
  • bottles of beer and wine with spelling mistakes on the labels
  • computer software with handwritten or no labels.

How can traders avoid problems?

  • Only buy goods from conventional sources, avoid buying from the 'man in the pub', whose full name you don't know, whom you have never met before and who you are unable to contact again.
  • Whenever you buy, always get an itemised and dated receipt showing any VAT paid and of course the VAT registration number. Hand-written receipts may be suspect.
  • Be suspicious of prices that are too cheap for famous named goods - they are not likely to be genuine. Also be wary if you are told they are seconds or rejects.

What happens if counterfeit goods are found?

Trading Standards staff can seize and destroy fake, counterfeit, pirated and bogus products as well as any money made from criminal activity.

Breaking the law may result in prosecution for offences under the:

  • Trademarks Act
  • Copyright, Design and Patents Act
  • Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

Fines of up to £5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months can be imposed in a magistrates' court.

Unlimited fines may be imposed in a crown court, with up to ten years' imprisonment for trademark offences.

The copyright owner may also sue for damages in the civil courts.

How do I report suspect products?

Consumers should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides clear, practical advice to help sort out problems and disagreements with suppliers of goods or services.

Traders can get advice about trading laws by contacting Trading Standards.