A Counterfeit Toy Story: Choking Hazards, Age Restrictions and Safety

In our article covering counterfeit goods back in June (Available HERE), we looked at the impact of fake goods on the UK economy and the detrimental effect that such products can have upon consumers.

Recent research from the Anti-Counterfeiting Forum estimates that the proliferation of counterfeit goods has resulted in a cost of £30bn (or the equivalent of 14,800 jobs) for the UK economy. Even more startling, the 2018 EU Customs Report estimates that of all counterfeit border seizures, 34% had the potential to harm consumers.

Increased Seizure of Counterfeit Goods

This has increased by 9% on previous annual figures and may suggest two possibilities – that border control teams are becoming increasingly effective at the identification and seizure of such items, or alternatively, that those dealing in fake goods are taking increased risks with regards to public safety.

The ‘no harm, no foul’ mentality surrounding counterfeit culture still puts consumers at genuine risk. Many don’t ever realise that they have purchased counterfeit goods, thereby unwittingly putting their loved ones and themselves at risk.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Caroline had bought some items online through a link she had seen on social media around Christmas time last year. She had previously seen these items in the shops. The pictures featured alongside the listings displayed what she assumed was the same item. However, what arrived on her doorstep was far more sinister. Caroline had purchased what she thought was a soft toy, apparently suitable for children between 24 and 36 months old.

“I should have known that there was something wrong with it when it arrived. It came in cellophane wrapping, as opposed to the boxes that they are normally found in in the shops…something just looked off with it…but I thought that would explain the discount.”

When she gave it to her son Caiden to play with, who was two years old at the time, the stitching came apart on the item and the stuffing that had been inside spilled out.

“It ripped straight down the sides. A baby shouldn’t be able to tear apart a toy like that…when I saw the stuffing in Caiden’s mouth I just screamed and got it out with my fingers. He was crying and wouldn’t stop…”

She decided that it was best to have Caiden checked over by a doctor. Thankfully there was no lasting damage. However, the entire situation has made her wary about buying anything again from groups on social media.

“I feel so silly thinking about it and the way it happened, and I get frustrated at the fact that I didn’t think more about the reasons that the item was so much cheaper than it normally is on the high street”.

Difficulties in Spotting the Difference

Caroline is far from alone when it comes to being duped by counterfeit goods. Increasingly more often, the packaging and point of purchase doesn’t always betray the illegitimacy of the product. The attention to detail put into the creation of fake items can often make it incredibly difficult to tell the difference without the use of an expert eye. As more and more consumers turn to internet shopping, the ability to accurately assess the validity of a product is becoming increasingly difficult.

Lorna Yelland, Team Leader at always advises to take caution when purchasing toys for children –

“It’s important to take your time and assess the true value of the product. However, this does only mean the cost. By ensuring you Avoid items with choking hazards, Be smart and read labels, and Consider the Alternatives, you can avoid the heartache of putting your young ones at risk, even when items are being purchased through legitimate suppliers. Think of it like the ‘ABC’ of kid’s toy safety”.

Online purchasing

In situations where there is doubt when purchasing online, there are options which can help. are working in partnership with the company Vistalworks to bring you the very latest innovation in consumer protection technology. Their exciting new tool allows consumers to copy and paste a URL before making an online purchase. This technology will provide an indication of whether the product appears to be legitimate or not. This can be found by visiting and entering the URL.

The main advice this Christmas (and indeed all year round) is to avoid the counterfeit items, take time to assess any products before purchasing online and remember the ‘ABC’  –

Avoid items with choking hazards

Be smart and read the labels

Consider the alternatives

If you would like more advice or guidance on any consumer matter, including the dangers of counterfeit toys and how to avoid purchasing substandard goods this Christmas, you can contact on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at, Instagram:, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at