Crackdown on counterfeits as UK shoppers hunt for bargains

A Black Friday crackdown by enforcement bodies and Meta has been launched to remove listings of potential counterfeit products from Instagram in the run-up to Black Friday.

The listings cover counterfeit electrical goods – such as phone accessories and potentially dangerous chargers – as well as fake clothing and fashion accessories, jewellery, tobacco, car parts and copyrighted photographs.

The crackdown – which is still ongoing – comes alongside a revealing new survey1 showing that just over 1 in 4 UK shoppers are considering or intending to buy fake products this year2. Additionally, almost 2 in 5 (37%) said they want to buy the same amount of presents as last Christmas, which could lure more people into unknowingly purchasing cheaper but unsafe counterfeit products.2

Electrical devices (such as smartphones, tablets or laptops) and accessories (such as chargers and earphones) are among the top targets for consumers planning or tempted to buy fakes this year. These illegally-sold items pose substantial risks for shoppers, as they can be both poor quality, leading to wasted spending, and incredibly dangerous. Previous research by Electrical Safety First found that 98% of fake Apple chargers failed safety tests3, and the consequences can be dire, with recent Home Office data showing 10 UK house fires each day are caused by faulty appliances and leads4.

The revelations come ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which continue to grow in popularity, with nearly 10% of survey responders confirming they plan to shop on Black Friday for the first time this year. Shoppers who turn to counterfeits risk, at best, disappointing financial loss but also serious harm. 45% of respondents reported problems after buying fakes across all product types with top issues relating to quality and products not being fit for purpose. Similar quality concerns around knock-off, unregulated, electrical goods could have devastating impacts for households this Christmas.

The IPO has launched its Don’t Blow Christmas campaign today (@dontblowchristmas) in advance of the peak online shopping season and is urging people to buy authentic electrical goods from legitimate retailers.

Chris Mills, Director of Rights, Policy and Enforcement at IPO said: "As more shoppers look to grab themselves a Christmas bargain on Black Friday, we’re launching Don’t Blow Christmas to highlight how unregulated illegal electrical products are particularly dangerous and not worth the risk, as they are often unsafe and untested. It’s important to remember that, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. We are urging consumers to stay smart, savvy and safe, and Don’t Blow Christmas.”

The enforcement campaign was coordinated by National Markets Group** for IP Protection, a multi-agency enforcement group that includes the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and National Trading Standards (NTS). Shoppers can be easily deceived to think retailers and their products are legitimate, because they may appear on familiar or trusted e-commerce or social media platforms, so the group has been working with Meta to instigate the takedowns in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Mike Andrews, National Co-ordinator, National Trading Standards eCrime team, said: “Removing counterfeit goods from Instagram means families will be safer this Christmas. Buying fakes can seem like a harmless way to get what you want for less, but counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. Aside from being poor quality, fake electrical goods can be a fire hazard, while copycat toys can be deadly to children as criminals don’t care about safety standards. Even fake designer clothes and accessories cause huge harm as the trade props up organised crime. We’re delighted with the results of this operation as we continue our mission to reduce the harm counterfeiting causes in communities and across society, to people and to legitimate businesses.”

Mark Fiore, Meta's Director & Associate General Counsel, IP, shared: "Partnership is at the core of our program. By engaging directly with rights holders and other stakeholders, we're able to learn more about the issues they're facing and work together to find solutions. Many of the measures we have in place to protect IP – including our proactive enforcement– were developed as a result of these close partnerships."

More information about how Meta protects intellectual property can be found on the Intellectual Property Help Centers located on FacebookandInstagram, and in this anti-counterfeiting guide on Meta's Business Help Center.

Tips to avoid being duped into purchasing counterfeit products

1) Vet the seller. Do they look official? Have you bought from this seller before, is the website or platform well known? Does the seller have a returns policy? If you are in doubt, look for a genuine online review, not just recommendations from influencers to buy the item.

Avoid payments by bank transfer. Always beware of retailers asking for payment to be made via bank transfer. Well known credit card providers like Visa or Mastercard, and services like PayPal offer protection to buyers if the goods don’t arrive or are proven to be counterfeit.

Trust your instincts. Does the item on offer look and feel like an authentic product? Sellers of counterfeits often make spelling mistakes in their descriptions and sometimes on the products themselves, which is an obvious warning sign. Spelling and grammar mistakes can indicate fakes!

Look for EU and UK safety markings. The safety standards of counterfeit items are poor and can be dangerous, especially when they are shipped from abroad. Do items have EU and UK safety markings? You should always check for the correct age restrictions and hazard warnings on the packaging.

Question the price if much cheaper than elsewhere. Whether buying online or in person, always think about the price. Scammers often sell counterfeit goods at discounted prices to make you drop your guard. If the item is significantly cheaper than you’d expect, that’s a good reason for alarm bells to ring. If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you or someone you know has purchased a counterfeit product or suspects that a website is selling counterfeit products, report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.

Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive at Electrical Safety First, said: "We urge people to be vigilant against counterfeit goods. It may seem like a bargain but the cost of buying fake electrical items could be that you or a loved one suffer an electric shock, or a fire starts in your home. Many people may not even be aware the products they are considering purchasing are counterfeit, so it’s important they follow the IPO’s tips on tell-tale signs.”

For more information on how to avoid buying fake electrical products visit

Notes to Editors

*Don’t Blow Christmas campaign

Don’t Blow Christmas is an IPO-led consumer campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of buying counterfeit electrical products online this Christmas. It is urging consumers to recognise and choose authentic electrical goods from legitimate retailers in a bid to reduce the risk of faulty and hazardous goods ruining Christmas for families in the UK.

Visit type @dontblowchristmas into your socials for further information on the campaign.

**The National Markets Group

National Markets Group for IP protection (NMG) was established in 2008 to provide a forum for a national, co-ordinated, cross-sector approach to tackle the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods at markets and car boot fairs. In 2017, the NMG added online and social media platforms to its portfolio of work.

Members of the National Markets Group include law enforcement, industry and government agencies working collaboratively to reduce the threat to legitimate business and consumers from IP crime
The NMG operates the Real Deal and Real Deal online initiatives, which are preventative campaigns focused on supporting Trading Standards, market operators and social media administrators to maintain a fake-free and safe environment for businesses and consumers.

About the Intellectual Property Office

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright. IPO is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, supported by 1 public body. The IPO operates and maintains a clear and accessible intellectual property system in the UK, which encourages innovation and helps the economy and society to benefit from knowledge and ideas. It helps people get the right type of protection for their creation or invention.

About National Trading Standards

National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement. Its Board is made up of senior and experienced heads of local government trading standards from around England and Wales with an independent Chair. Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues.

1.Survey conducted by Censuswide in November 2022 with a nationally representative sample of 2,012 UK residents over the age of 16 between 02.11.22 – 04.11.22. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

2.13.77% of survey respondents who said they have never intentionally bought fake or knock-off products before, but would consider doing so this year + 12.03% saying they have intentionally bought fake or knock-off products before and plan to again this year