Counting the cost of counterfeit goods

April 03, 2013

The UK has seen a six fold increase in the number of counterfeit electrical goods seized in the last four years – at the time when UK councils have reduced spending on identifying crooks by just under a fifth.

Figures obtained by The Co-operative Electrical from local councils and Border Force – the organisation charged with patrolling the UK’s borders – show that the value of counterfeit electrical goods seized has risen from £2,614,783 in 2009 to a staggering £15,725,462 in 2012.

During the same period, budgets for trading standards – the council division responsible for identifying and prosecuting counterfeit sellers on a regional level – have been slashed by 17.5 per cent from £85 million to just under £70 million.

The rise in seized goods is predominately down to the explosion in demand for expensive designer headphones, the value of which has risen from just over £200,000 in 2009, to in excess of £15 million in 2012.  Seizures of hair straighteners also saw a huge comparative rise, from almost nothing in 2009 to £172,000 in 2012.

In 2009, London Borough and County Councils prosecuted 372 people for the sale of counterfeit electrical goods, a figure which dropped to 245 in 2012.  This equates to £280,000 per prosecution.

Nationally, Kent had the largest budget, spending just under £3 million on trading standards in 2012.  During this period there were four prosecutions in Kent for selling counterfeit electrical goods, whilst in Hertfordshire – with a trading standards budget of just under £2,700,000 - no one was prosecuted.  The council with the lowest budget was Dorset, with just under £1,200,000.

In London, Westminster had the highest budget for trading standards, spending £1,381,053 in 2012.  The lowest spending Borough was Barking and Dagenham, which spent just £196,497. 

James Holland, Managing Director of The Co-operative Electrical, said: “There are numerous issues with counterfeit electrical goods, the main ones being that they won’t work or that they will pose a safety risk as a result of shoddy manufacturing that is not subject to the same standards of genuine products.

“And when a product does fail, who can you turn to for a refund or a replacement?  It is always preferable to buy from a supplier that you can trust.

“In addition, according to the National Fraud Authority – the government agency that helps to co-ordinate the fight against fraud in the UK - many fraudsters use the proceeds from selling counterfeit goods to fund drug dealing and other types of organised crime.  Clearly it is to be avoided at all costs.”


Top spenders on trading standards and number of prosecutions in 2012 – County Councils


Council Trading Standards spend No. of prosecutions
1 Kent £2,951,000 4
2 Hampshire £2,717,000 5
3 Hertfordshire £2,697,922 0
4 Suffolk £2,568,777 0
5 North Yorkshire £2,429,000 2


Lowest spenders on trading standards and number of prosecutions in 2012 – County Councils


Council Trading Standards spend No. of prosecutions
1 Dorset £1,191,900 2
2 Gloucestershire £1,270,000 3
3 Buckinghamshire £1,304,637 0
4 East Sussex £1,405,000 2
5 Northamptonshire £1,419,123 2



Top spenders on trading standards and number of prosecutions in 2012 – London Borough councils

Council Trading Standards spend No. of prosecutions
1 Westminster £1,381,053 4
2 Brent & Harrow £1,280,000 20
3 Southwark £842,000 5
4 Enfield £827,000 2
5 Croydon £723,947 1


Lowest spenders on trading standards and number of prosecutions in 2012 – London Borough councils

Council Trading Standards spend No. of prosecutions
1 Ealing £276,000 4
2 Sutton £300,600 3
3 City of London £339,000 0
4 Harringey £372,600 1
5 Lambeth £401,000 2

 

The most popular items seized by trading standards were chargers, headphones and hair straighteners. 

Most seized items – County Councils

2009 Hair straighteners – 1,259
2010 Hair straighteners – 65
2011 Chargers - 2,072
2012 Camera and cameraphone batteries – 7,128 (all in Hampshire)


Most seized items – London Boroughs

2009 Vacuum cleaners – 820 (all in Merton)
2010 Hair straighteners – 971
2011 Chargers – 614
2012 Chargers - 12,110