Christmas crackdown on '100 traders selling fake goods'

By Sophie Gidley
BBC News

Image source, South Wales Police
Image caption,
South Wales Police seized thousands of pounds worth of counterfeit goods in Bridgend in November

More than 100 traders in Wales selling counterfeit goods have been targeted by authorities this Christmas, a leading investigator has said.

Graham Mogg, of the UK Anti-Counterfeiting Group, said officers netted more than 120,000 fake products last Christmas, "a proportion of which was heading for Welsh consumers".

Welsh councils carried out at least 19 raids over this year's festive period.

A number of campaigns have warned the public about buying "bargain" gifts.

Mr Mogg, who chairs the National Markets Group and is based in Caerphilly, said Wales was "at the forefront" of Operation Jasper last year.

The initiative tackles the sale of counterfeit products on social media, such as clothes, footwear, electrical products, makeup and perfumes.

Image caption,
Graham Mogg said traders use Facebook's Marketplace site to sell counterfeit goods

Officers targeted more than 640 traders across the UK last Christmas, including more than 100 in Wales, and Mr Mogg said they expected to tackle "similar numbers" again this year.

"A lot of consumers forget there's criminals behind these, not just ordinary people selling items," he said.

"In Wales, the good thing about local authorities is they're very focused on [the] protecting public from these goods - much better than the rest of the UK."

Mr Mogg stressed it was difficult to give precise figures on how many goods were seized in Wales over the Christmas period last year.

This was due to the fact "many of the Welsh suppliers of counterfeit goods purchase them in areas such as Manchester, Liverpool, Warwickshire and Bristol for supply on social media platforms and open air markets", he said.

But he highlighted that Swansea officers seized more than 7,000 items last December that were heading for Bristol markets and on to Welsh traders.

"Trading standards authorities across Wales work tirelessly to combat the risks of buying counterfeit and often unsafe counterfeit goods," he added.

A number of Welsh councils have carried out raids in the run up to Christmas this year.

Of the nine councils which responded to BBC Wales' request for information, seven said they had carried out raids - including seven in Caerphilly, four in Powys and five in Newport.

Flintshire, Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire and Carmarthenshire councils have each carried out one.

Powys council said one of its operations found a "sizeable network" of counterfeit tobacco, with an estimated street value which ran "into the millions".

Image source, South Wales Police
Image caption,
Police uncovered fake brands of clothing in Bridgend in November

Caerphilly council confirmed it had seized 926 fake goods, but did not say how much these items were worth.

Cabinet member Eluned Stenner said: "Not only does the sale of such items affect legitimate manufacturers selling genuine items, but there is also the very real concern of the items being poor quality and a potential safety risk."

Newport council said it had conducted five raids at shops, street traders and of Facebook sellers, seizing 390 items with an estimated street value of £9,420.

Councillor Ray Truman, cabinet member for licensing and regulation, said: "What may appear as a bargain could end up costing people a lot more, maybe that cheap mobile phone charger you bought could cause a fire, risking the lives of your loved ones.

"Or what about that cheap toy? Does that toy you are about to give to your child contain dangerous small parts or untested chemicals?

"We would urge the public to think very carefully about buying so called bargains and only shop with genuine traders."

Mr Mogg echoed his warning: "The message we give is; if it looks too good to be true, then it is."