Wigan Christmas shoppers warned not to buy 'knock-off' goods
Bargain-hunting Wigan Christmas shoppers are being warned of the potentially deadly risks posed by knock-off goods.
Make-up laced with lead, fire hazard hair straighteners and booze made from industrial strength alcohol that can cause blindness were among the products seized by Wigan officers this year.
The borough’s trading standards team tasked with cracking down on illicit trade has spoken out as its bumper haul of products from this year is set to be incinerated. And they have urged anyone considering buying knock-off goods to “think twice”.
The illegal trade not only presents a personal safety and health risk but can also have a devastating impact on the local economy, council assistant director Mark Tilley said.
“The council has a role to protect people but people have an individual responsibility to look after themselves.
“People need to make their purchases from a reliable and trustworthy source.
“They will be prioritising what they spend, especially in the lead up to Christmas, so if something does come across as extremely cheap then we would ask them to think twice before they purchase.
“Be aware; someone here is doing something illegal and it’s depriving other shops and reputable companies of income and that is doing harm to our town centres and the high street.”
Among the Wigan team’s haul is 80,000 cigarettes, 25kg of loose tobacco and 4,500 fake counterfeit car accessories.
An estimated value of all goods recovered in the borough in the last 12 months is Â£500k, the council says, although officers add this could be “just the tip of the iceberg”.
Ian Kelsall, trading standards manager for Wigan council, has urged residents to speak out if they suspect an individual or a business of peddling knock-off goods.
He said: “We’ve got a lot of this stuff from public tip-offs. It has an effect on somebody, whether it be the local shop or the high street. It does irritate people.
“Shop owners do tell us ‘I can’t compete with that shop down the road, they’re undercutting me’ and it’s because they’re selling illicit goods.”
While some residents may be purchasing knock-off booze and cigarettes with their eyes open – despite the health implications – the risk posed by electrical goods or cosmetic products is perhaps not as well known.
Cosmetic products that appear to be the real deal may contain toxic levels of ingredients such as lead that can cause severe skin rashes and other health problems.
Mr Kelsall added: “People may not think that make-up, for example, can be counterfeited because it hasn’t occurred to them.
“You’re taking a risk. Anything that you plug in, obviously there’s a greater fire safety risk.
“They (the counterfeiters) concentrate on the appearance, the expensive bits – the safety features – they’re not interested in. They just want you to buy it, there’s no after sales care, they’re just gone.
“Buy it from reputable shop on the high street, don’t cut corners.”
The trading standards team say no matter how legitimate products appear, their officers can identify them as fake from certain ‘tells’ that they do not want to make public as it will aid the counterfeiters.
So the advice to residents is to think about where the products are being sold and for what price; if it seems too good to be true, it invariably is, officers say.
Residents have also been urged to be aware of the wider implications as the counterfeit goods trade can be used as a funding stream for organised crime, they added.
Mr Tilley added: “(What we have seized this year) is only a proportion, this is the tip of the iceberg and we probably don’t know how big the iceberg is.
“This is what we know about because we’ve captured it, but there is a wider problem and somebody on the street isn’t necessarily thinking about the wider implications."