“Christmas Time, Mistletoe and Counterfeit Goods” – Avoiding the Purchase of Substandard Gifts

Christmas is an expensive time of year for everyone. Gifts for friends and family, food on the big day, as well as the parties and nights out surrounding the festive period can be a big ask on our finances. Checking the authenticity of the products that we buy is vital in not only ensuring that we’re not ripped-off but also offers reassurance that we’re not putting our loved ones in unnecessary danger by gifting them substandard or counterfeit goods.

The 2017 OECD Report on counterfeit trade in the UK highlighted that almost 4% of all imports to the UK in 2013 were counterfeit, with an estimated value of £9.3 billion. The same report quantified this in terms of the equivalent impact on job losses of approximately 60,000 positions and the impact upon tax revenue equating to £4 billion. Six years on, and with various awareness campaigns highlighting the dangers associated with counterfeit and substandard items, why is it that we continue to gamble with both our money and our safety?

Staggering Figures

The OECD figures are staggering and place the impact of counterfeit and fake goods on the UK economy into startling perspective. However, these figures do not consider auxiliary factors which contribute to consumer harm and fraud. This includes the theft of personal data, identity theft and the use of ‘malware’ to control a consumer’s computer for the purposes of extortion. Our article ‘Cyber Crime – We Protect Our Homes, So Why Not Our Homepage?’ covers this topic in greater detail.

Reducing Risk

There are a number of ways in which you can reduce the risk of making a purchase. In our article titled, ‘Burying Our Heads in The Online Shopping Bag – Counterfeit Goods and Their Cost On The Economy’, we introduced the Scottish tech start-up VistalWorks, who have developed an innovative way of checking before we make online purchases. By running a URL (or web address) through their checker, VistalWorks identify any potential risks in relation to the purchase and can stop you buying something which you later regret.

Counterfeit Electrical Equipment 

The Journal of Trading Standards indicates that 2% (almost one million) of the UK’s population had knowingly purchased counterfeit electrical goods between 2017 and 2018. This figure is concerning, considering the dangers associated with faulty electrical items.

Counterfeit goods such as mass-produced, low-cost chargers cause particular cause for concern. When these generic chargers are used on electronic items that they were not intended for, they can cause overheating, damaging the equipment and potentially starting a fire. Using officially branded, recommended equipment reduces the risk of this happening.


British Standards Institute (BSI) Kitemark

Many electrical items that have been produced legitimately carry the British Standards kitemark (below). This indicates that the item has been produced to British Standards and is used to identify items which have passed a safety inspection, including electrical equipment.

Brands that carry this kitemark can be seen to be meeting British Standards in terms of quality production. However, fraudsters sometimes use variations of the authentic branding in an attempt to bring legitimacy to items that would not be endorsed by the BSI Kitemark. The differences in the appearance of the kitemark are minor and can often be overlooked.

An Authentic Kitemark 

It is hugely important when buying gifts for loved ones this festive season to remain vigilant and make your purchases only from trusted, reputable suppliers.

By being in-the-know and understanding the importance of avoiding counterfeit and substandard goods, you may save yourself money, and more importantly, keep your loved ones safe.

At, we have put together our top tips to avoid having your Christmas ruined by counterfeit or sub-standard goods

  • Check before you buy – There are tools out there to allow you to check whether the items you are purchasing are legitimate. VistalWorks have an excellent tool for checking purchases online before you buy. Click HERE (link to for more information and to check those items.
  • Look for patterns in online reviews – Repeat patterns of language and reviews with little context in relation to five-star reviews can indicate that these product reviews have been ‘mass-produced’ and are not honest reflections of the items being sold.
  • Sleep on a purchase – We’ve said it before, and we will say it again – ensure that you sleep on any purchase before making them. Impulse buys can cost you in the long run, even if they seem like bargains at the time!
  • Know your rights as a consumer – Remember that there is legislation out there that protects you as a consumer. Be knowledgeable about your rights and how to action them in a worst-case-scenario. Forearmed is forewarned!
  • Report any underhand practises! Remember that scams and the impacts that they have on us are far-reaching and by being diligent as consumers, we can avoid unnecessary heartache. Report anything suspicious by contacting us. We can then report to the relative authorities for investigation!

If you would like more advice on counterfeit goods, to report substandard items or to for information on any other consumer matter, 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