A million people consciously purchased fake products in the last year, a report by Electrical Safety First has found.
A Shocking Rip-Off: The True Cost of Counterfeit Products warns that the true figure is likely to be significantly higher, as many others will have unknowingly bought counterfeit goods.
The market for counterfeit goods in the UK is estimated at £1.3bn per year, with approximately £900m of this being used to fund organised crime.
But the report highlights not just the financial cost of fakes but also the physical risks they pose to consumers.
It is also growing problem that has expanded through online retail outlets and social media.
“Counterfeiters have become increasingly sophisticated”, explains Electrical Safety First director general Phil Buckle. “With some, it is now only really possible to confirm if the product is ‘real’ or fake by checking the components inside – which is obviously not a viable option for most consumers, or something we would recommend them undertaking.”
Mr Buckle added: “We found that the key reason counterfeits are sold so cheaply is that there are ‘shortcuts’, leaving out or using substandard and fake electronic components which can significantly impact on the product’s safety, as well as its functionality.”
However, as well as fake electrical products for consumers, the Charity’s investigation found strong anecdotal evidence of high levels of fake plugs and fuses infiltrating the market – basic electrical accessories we take for granted and use in a multitude of ways.
Electrical Safety First’s report, which was launched at its latest product safety conference, includes a number of recommendations for manufacturers and retailers, government and the general public.
These include calls for: increased collaboration between manufacturers, retailers and enforcement agencies to share intelligence and expertise; government to ensure enforcement agencies and local government have the resources to deal with the problem; and consumers to be made aware of the real dangers of counterfeit electrics and how to spot them.