Which? is launching a campaign for new laws to protect people from an epidemic of scams, dangerous products and fake reviews online – as new evidence from the consumer champion shows tech giants are failing to adequately protect their users.
Which? believes urgent government action is needed to make online platforms legally responsible for the harmful content on their sites that leaves people seriously exposed to financial, emotional and even physical harm.
The consumer champion’s latest research, a survey of 2,000 UK adults, shows trust among consumers in the ability of tech giants like Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google to protect them from either scams, unsafe products or fake reviews is shockingly low - with two thirds (68%) of people saying they have little or no trust that online platforms are taking effective steps to do so.
Which? has tracked these problems for several years and believes they are symptomatic of a broader issue - the failure of major online platforms to take enough responsibility. If left unchecked, this will likely lead to the problems consumers face online getting worse in years to come.
Which?’s survey found worrying indications of the presence of these issues on online platforms and the negative impact they have on victims.
One in five (18%) respondents reported having bought an unsafe product that posed a health or safety risk from an online marketplace in the last year.
A fifth (21%) said a product they had bought from Amazon Marketplace presented a health or safety risk and one in six (16%) who had bought a product from eBay reported this happening too.
Alan Christopher, 46, told Which? he bought an ‘iPosible’ power bank from Amazon Marketplace but that shortly after receiving it, the product - which carried a coveted Amazon’s Choice endorsement - caught fire in his home. He managed to get the product to his sink and cover it with water before it caused further damage.
He said: “This product could have killed me. It’s really worrying that these products are making their way into people’s homes and are still being sold despite having such a serious issue. It has made me distrustful of buying from Amazon.”
Eight per cent of survey respondents said they had been the victim of a scam as a result of using an online platform.
For scam victims, the knock-on effects were severe, with half (51%) saying it was negative for their financial situation, a third (33%) saying it negatively impacted their mental health and a quarter (23%) saying falling victim to the scam even impacted their physical health in a negative way.
David*, in his seventies, lost over £20,000 in an investment clone scam last year. After a Google search for the 'best rate of interest for savings of £15,000', he clicked on what he believed to be a legitimate website, and filled in his personal details. He was then contacted by a fraudster posing as a Standard Chartered bank employee. The fraudster convinced David to deposit his life savings and he has not yet received a refund.
He told Which?: "I feel very upset and shocked about the scam. I am an honest person, and wrongly expected others to be the same. It has been a rude awakening - I don't trust anyone now. The money from the investment was to be used for a replacement joint operation - I will be in agony for months to come.”
Nearly nine in 10 (89%) respondents to Which?’s survey said they use online customer reviews to inform product purchases or choice of services.
However just six per cent trust ‘a great deal’ that online platforms like Amazon and Facebook are taking effective steps to protect consumers from fake reviews. Three times as many (18%) do not trust ‘at all’ that they are taking effective steps.
Around four in 10 (41%) people admitted to finding it difficult to work out if customer reviews are genuine and have been left by a real customer that truthfully describes their experience with the product or service. Just one in six (17%) said they found it easy to do so.
Which? investigations over the last two years have exposed a flood of harmful content, including scams, dangerous products and fake reviews, making its way onto the biggest online platforms. Tech giants have put measures in place to protect consumers but Which? research has repeatedly found evidence that suggests these problems are continuing on an industrial scale.
Which? has launched its new #JustNotBuyingIt campaign to make tech firms take responsibility for the harms taking place on their sites. Platforms not having enough legal responsibility allows unscrupulous individuals or businesses and criminals to sell unsafe products, mislead consumers and target potential scam victims with ease, causing serious harm to consumers and undermining trust in digital commerce.
Powerful tech companies often profit from this harmful activity - whether via investment adverts paid for by criminals or sales of unsafe products boosted by fake reviews - and the lack of a legal framework means they lack sufficiently strong incentives to shut down these practices.
Despite having some of the most sophisticated technology known to man, the voluntary solutions put forward to date to tackle these problems by the major online platforms have been inadequate.
Which? believes the government must now step in with laws giving regulators and other bodies the powers they need to make online platforms take responsibility for the serious consumer harms on their sites.
Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said:
"Millions of consumers are being exposed every day to scams, dangerous products and fake reviews. The world’s biggest tech companies have the ability to protect people from consumer harm but they are simply not taking enough responsibility.
“We are launching our new #JustNotBuyingIt campaign because it is time to stop just asking these platforms to do the right thing to protect consumers - instead the government and regulators must now step in and make them take responsibility by putting the right regulations in place.”
Link to Which?’s #JustNotBuyingIt campaign at: https://campaigns.which.co.uk/tech-giants-responsibility/
A storage facility in Strangeways, Manchester, was raided by officers this week, in the UK’s biggest ever police operation aimed at cracking down on the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods. Officers raided 55 units within the storage facility, all full of fake goods.
The huge operation led by the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, working with the City of London Polices’ Intellectual Crime Property Unit, Trading Standards, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement, with logistical support from Lighthouse Security, uncovered an estimated £500 million worth of branded goods. Two counterfeit perfume factories, and manufacturing equipment, was also found in a number of lock ups inside the storage unit. All equipment was seized. Chemicals, including white spirit and screen wash, were also found in the unit used to manufacture fake perfume.
In total over 200 tonnes of goods were seized. If genuine and sold at retail price, this equates to an estimated loss to brands of over £500 million.
Police Constable Anthony Cregan, from the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, who is leading the investigation, said:
“This operation will have severely disrupted organised crime groups linked to counterfeit goods. We believe the hundreds of tonnes of goods seized would have supplied gangs in Cheetham Hill selling counterfeit goods. This funds an assortment of serious organised crime, which we are determined to combat.
“This enforcement activity and large-scale seizures should send a strong message to all criminals involved in counterfeit goods that this won’t be tolerated, and we are constantly working towards our next operation.
“It is important to recognise the serious impact of sophisticated and large-scale counterfeit operations such as this. I would like to take this opportunity to remind members of the public of the serious repercussions of this kind of offending, and the link to organised criminal activity. Please be under no illusion - this type of crime is not victimless.
“This operation showed the effectiveness of partnership working, and I thank all our partners involved for their help.”
The joint action saw two people arrested and multiple links found to two of the biggest organised crime groups in Cheetham Hill. The search warrants, which developed from a covert operation and intelligence from Border Force, saw over 60 officers and staff working together.
The investigation is ongoing, but officers have so far seized suspected counterfeit shoes, clothing, handbags, watches, makeup, perfume, sunglasses, batteries and headphones. Fake brand labels have also been seized. These are often imported separately to be sewn onto counterfeit clothing and shoes.
Mobile phones, laptops and a large amount of cash have also been seized.
Superintendent Paul Denn of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, said:
“This week our officers have been part of the UK’s biggest ever counterfeit operation – seizing more than £500 million worth of goods together with our partners from the City of London Police, Greater Manchester Police and Trading Standards.
“This is a huge success in our mission to combat the counterfeit goods trade in Cheetham Hill. Whenever we receive intelligence about illegal goods, we work closely with our colleagues at the City of London Police and other partners to investigate and take appropriate action. This week’s activity should send a clear message that we will stop at nothing to tackle this issue and it’s a priority we will continue to crack down on.
“The counterfeit goods trade isn’t a victimless crime. Often criminals use the profits to fund other organised crime, and with that often comes violence, which can have devastating effects on the local community.”
Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, Executive Member for Neighbourhoods for Manchester City Council, said:
"The counterfeit goods industry is not just a business of selling the odd knock-off bag, or a fake Gucci bag. It is the enterprise of organised criminal gangs who have ties to the drug trade, human trafficking, and a string of other serious crimes. As a Council, working with our partners, we are determined to stamp out counterfeit operations in North Manchester.
"We want to make our neighbourhoods safe and prosperous for all residents and as this week's Operation Genoa has shown, we are serious in achieving this goal."
A Birmingham man was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday (23 August 2021) after pleading guilty to 26 offences for manufacturing and selling fake designer clothes.
Inderjit Sangu (67), formerly of Sandwell Road, Birmingham, had previously pleaded guilty to 26 offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994.
Mr Sangu - who owned a clothing manufacturing business in Park Road, in Hockley, Birmingham - was producing tens of thousands of counterfeit goods and distributing these to market stall and online sellers across the UK.
On 27 August 2019 - as part of Operation Beorma - officers from the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team (RIT), Birmingham Trading Standards and West Midlands Police executed search warrants on Mr Sangu’s factory and home address.
Operation Beorma is an ongoing investigation led by the National Trading Standards RIT and Birmingham Trading Standards into organised crime groups involved in the importation, manufacturing and distribution of counterfeit goods.
Members of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (made up of brand representatives) examined the stock at the Hockley factory and confirmed they were counterfeit goods.
Trading Standards officers seized the fake designer clothing with a street value of approximately £500,000, as well as approximately 40,000 counterfeit branded clothing labels.
The fake designer labels seized by Trading Standards included brand names such as The North Face, Polo Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Nike, Moncler, Versace, Givenchy, Stone Island, Super Dry, Prada, Lacoste and Canada Goose.
Three large industrial embroidery and sewing looms were found at the unit and there was clear evidence indicating counterfeit clothing being manufactured at the premises on a large scale.
In sentencing Mr Sangu, the judge, Mr Recorder Brandreth QC, told Mr Sangu that there had been ‘serious planning and pre-meditation’ in the counterfeiting operation as well as a ‘pattern of sophistication for which you are the leader’. He concluded by saying that ‘only a custodial sentence could be justified’.
Councillor Philip Davis, Chair of Birmingham City Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “This was one of the largest operations ever to be disrupted in the city. People may think counterfeiting is a victimless crime, but it's not.
"Counterfeiting is often linked to organised crime, drugs, modern slavery and child labour. They are ripping off the consumers, legitimate businesses and Inland Revenue. Birmingham Trading Standards will do everything they can to disrupt these organised crime groups who are involved in this illicit business."
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the National Trading Standards Board, said: “Trading standards officers and other partners are tackling this criminal activity. Consumers risk being misled and parting with hard earned money to pay for fake products. We will continue to work together to disrupt the organised crime groups and clamp down on criminals who sell counterfeit goods to unsuspecting members of the public. We urge people to be vigilant and report any examples of sales of counterfeit goods by calling the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.”
Graham Mogg, Intelligence Co-ordinator for the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, said: "The potential loss to industry was estimated at being more than £5 million. Each of the 40,000 labels seized would have been used to create a counterfeit item. Whilst some may have been used to create a T-shirt that sold for between £40 and £50, others such as the counterfeit Canada Goose and Moncler labels would have been used to counterfeit clothing worth more than £1,000 per item."
A Proceeds of Crime Act case will follow later in the year.
A new initiative is launched to crack down on criminals using self-storage facilities fraudulently.
13 August 2021
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO), National Trading Standards, London Trading Standards and the Self-Storage Association UK (SSAUK), have teamed up to launch a new code of practice. The initiative’s aim is to reduce the appeal of self-storage facilities to criminals who deal in counterfeit and other illicit goods.
‘The Tick Box: Keep it Real Keep it Legal’ code of practice sets out a few simple procedures. The aim is to prevent the fraudulent storage of counterfeit and other illicit or unsafe goods. It also helps self-storage facility owners be sure of who is really using their premises. Counterfeit goods are often seized in self-storage facilities, or on their way to them. This scheme helps self-storage facilities to identify the individuals behind the crimes. It also helps enforcement authorities recover the goods before they enter the marketplace.
The scheme is already yielding results. Targeted enforcement action has disrupted criminal networks. This has resulted in the seizure of thousands of counterfeit items. These are estimated to be worth millions of pounds to criminals.
Storage facilities that participate in the scheme are provided with the ‘Tick Box’ logo. Posters are displayed within the premises. These act as an assurance to legitimate customers and a deterrent to anyone attempting to store counterfeit goods.
Forty-five local and national self-storage providers have already signed up to the first phase of the code of practice. More than 1,200 self-storage facility staff have received additional training under the scheme. The next phase will see the scheme continue to be rolled out across the UK.
Trading Standards will be promoting the scheme to self-storage operators at the European Self-Storage Conference and Trade Show. It is being held in Birmingham on 20 and 21 September 2021.
IPO CEO, Tim Moss said:
"Unsafe and illicit goods, such as counterfeits, create real social and environmental harms in our communities and criminals have used self-storage units as part of their activities. Self-storage providers signing up to the code of practice will now have absolute confidence they are doing everything possible to deter criminals who target them in this way, while reassuring legitimate customers that their belongings are in safe hands".
"I am delighted that the new code of practice is being co-delivered through an effective partnership between self-storage providers, government and local enforcement, complementing our comprehensive approach to disrupting IP crime".
SSA UK CEO, Rennie Schafer said:
"The self-storage industry welcomes the opportunity to work with Trading Standards and local enforcement agencies to identify and deter criminals looking to use the industry for storage of unsafe and illicit goods. Many of these goods can cause real damage to the local communities that the self-storage businesses are part of. As an industry we want to do all we can to eliminate such activity from our stores and the community as a whole".
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:
"Trading Standards officers are finding counterfeit goods in, or on route to, self-storage facilities. By supporting self-storage facilities to prevent the storage of illicit goods on their premises, we can help clamp down on the sale of counterfeit goods that continue to deceive consumers and undermine legitimate businesses. We encourage all responsible self-storage providers to sign up to the Tick Box scheme - it’s free to join and easy to implement and will provide peace of mind to facility owners about what is being stored on their premises".
The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has been awarded the Special Commendation Award for the second year in a row at this year’s Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) Awards for Excellence.
The unit was awarded Highly Commended in the Special Commendation Award in recognition of their anti-counterfeiting enforcement work during the past year, The award is given to departments, teams or divisions in the police, customs (both HMRC and Border Force), government and/or overseas enforcement agencies for their contribution to the anti-counterfeiting effort.
T / Commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, said:
“The unit has worked tirelessly over the past year to continue to bring criminals to justice and I am delighted that their hard work and dedication has been recognised for the second year in a row.
“The award is extremely well deserved and recognises the excellent work undertaken by the team and highlights the importance and effectiveness of partnership working.”
In the last year, PIPCU has continued to work tirelessly to crack down on criminals committing intellectual property crime. Last month, the unit seized 12 tonnes of counterfeit goods in Manchester and in June, ahead of Euro 2020, the unit seized £80,000 worth of counterfeit football shirts.
The unit has also seen a number of high profiles charges, including David Chambers, who admitted to administering a fake vaccine to a 92-year-old woman at her home and charged her £160.
Three officers were also recognised for their individual anti-counterfeit enforcement work during the past year. Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt was awarded Highly Commended in the Special Commendation Individual Award and Detective Constable Pete Gartland and another officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, were awarded Commended in the Special Commendation Individual Award.
PIPCU received the Special Commendation Award last year for their anti-counterfeiting enforcement work within the counterfeit region in Cheetham Hill, Manchester.
T/ Detective Inspector, Kevin Ives, Head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit at City of London Police, said:
“I am extremely proud of the entire team for this achievement and to win the award two years in a row is a real testament to their hard work and dedication – especially over the past year with lockdown restrictions which has brought much uncertainty for everyone.
“We will continue to work closely with our partners, nationally and internationally, to tackle intellectual property crime.”
The winners were selected by the ACG Awards Committee and the team has been invited to a reception in September where they will be presented with their award in person.
The ACG works relentlessly with UK, EU and international governments and law enforcement agencies to shape an effective deterrent to counterfeiting, to protect business and consumers from the increasing dangers of counterfeit goods and IP crime.
This year we will be hosting our British IP Day celebrations virtually, showcasing the multifaceted contributions Intellectual Property (IP) makes to the UK. As the UK begins to re-open post-lockdown, we are keen to reflect on the significant impact IP rich industries have on UK growth, and envision a future that maximises this potential and recognises the successes of our creators.
At the Budget in April, the Government announced its plan to develop a new Innovation Strategy to support and shape economic recovery post-COVID-19. We expect the Strategy to be published in the Summer and with IP and innovation being so intrinsically linked, we have made innovation our theme for this year’s British IP Day
On the day we will hear from creators, businesses and their representative bodies and discuss how IP has helped them to earn a living from their innovation and creativity whilst delivering great designs, brands and content that people love and use day-to-day.
This year’s event will include four separate roundtables where topics under discussion will include the new Innovation Strategy, trade and exports, how creators and small businesses can benefit from IP, and how IP rich businesses are embracing AI. We will also be hearing stories throughout the day from creators and businesses such as from the games company JAGEX, who will be discussing the renowned online game, RuneScape, and how it’s huge popularity and their continuing investment in innovation has been underpinned by IP.
Aside from hearing from creators and businesses, we will additionally be joined by Chi Unwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Digital, Science and Technology; Adam Williams, Director of the International Division at the Intellectual Property Office and representatives of the IP Attaché network. They will individually share their thoughts on the importance of IP in regards to innovation and the economy, and highlight how businesses and creators should be celebrated through IP rich creativity and innovation.
Key contact details:
Dan Guthrie, Director General firstname.lastname@example.org 07720075299
Francesca Thorogood, Policy and Public Affairs Executive email@example.com 07469935048
Annabelle Martin-Jones (Luther Pendragon) AnnabelleMartinJones@luther.co.uk 07740486728
The store manager of a shop in Cheetham Hill Manchester, who imported counterfeit goods and distributed them internationally, has been sentenced.
On Monday 10 May 2021, Husamaclin Karimi, 28, of Birkdale Street, Manchester, was sentenced at Tameside Magistrates' Court to four months imprisonment, suspended for two years; four month curfew from 19:00 to 07:00; and to the forfeiture and destruction order in respect of all counterfeit items seized.
Officers from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) seized £96,959 worth of counterfeit goods from Karimi’s shop during a warrant on 16 October 2019.
Fifty three different brands, including Louis Vuitton and Gucci, were found in the three story shop, including thousands of branded labels imported separately to be sown onto counterfeit clothing, handbags and shoes.
Detective Constable, Daryl Fryatt, who led the investigation said:
“Selling counterfeit goods is illegal. This sentencing will have caused serious impact to the Cheetham Hill area that is known for selling and importing counterfeit goods. This has hopefully sent a strong message to other criminals involved in counterfeit goods that it won’t be tolerated and you will be brought to justice.
“For the public it is vital to remember you don’t know what other crimes you are funding when buying counterfeit goods, or the conditions those working for the criminals are working in.”
When executing the warrant of the property, officers were invited in by Karimi, who took them to into the rear rooms of the premises through a locked door. Karimi started telling officers that they could purchase items from between £20-£50, before realising that the officers were not customers.
Karimi was arrested and during interview admitted to being the store manager and selling counterfeit goods, which he knew was illegal. Karimi’s phones were also seized and examined with hundreds of images of counterfeit goods located.
Police seize counterfeit car parts including break paddles and key fobs worth £22,681
Friday 7 May 2021
This week officers from London’s Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit seized various counterfeit car parts, including brake pads and key fobs, during a warrant in Buckinghamshire.
The investigation began looking into the sale of counterfeit Ford products, mainly made for transit vans. The goods were being sold on two of the biggest online market places and available to buy worldwide.
In a report from Ford, it was confirmed that the car parts had not been produced to any safety standard and could potentially cause serious injuries.
On Tuesday 04 May 2021, officers from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit attended the residential address of a 42 year old man in the Milton Keynes, area. While searching the address, officers uncovered counterfeit car parts that police believe were going to be advertised as real and sold online. These included key fobs, exhaust temperature sensors, break pad covers, transit door logos, brake pedal covers and fuel filters.
The 42 year old man, who police believe is the company director, was arrested and cautioned at Milton Keynes Central Police Station while investigations continue.
Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt, from the City of London Police, who led the investigation said:
"This operation is an excellent example of PIPCU working collaboratively with the motor industry to tackle the sale of counterfeit goods.
"Not only could these parts pose a potential safety risk to those who have them fitted to their cars, they also undermine the legitimacy of the motor industry.
"We strive to identify and disrupt those who are intent on making money out of counterfeit goods, working closely with our partners to identify and take action against those who commit these crimes."
Jess Owens, Ford’s European brand protection manager, said:
“Ford operates a global team of experts in the fight against counterfeit goods, that not only impact heavily on the sale of genuine goods but also on jobs and customer satisfaction. The safety aspects of untested unapproved parts bearing a Ford trademark or sold as genuine parts when they are not may put the consumer at a level of unnecessary risk. Ford will continue to support the Police and other authorities in the battle against counterfeit parts.”
Last week officers from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit seized 25,000 counterfeit face masks in Scotland.
The investigation began after Border Force received intelligence that counterfeit face masks were coming into the United Kingdom from Hong Kong. Two large consignments of masks were found at East Midlands Airport and Stanford Le-Hope, heading to an address in Aberdeen, Scotland.
On Thursday 14 April 2021, officers from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit, the new North West Intellectual Property Crime Unit, and Police Scotland, attended the residential address of a 22 year old man and a storage unit in the Dyce area, and uncovered 25,000 counterfeit face masks that police believe were going to be advertised as medical grade and sold online.
A man was interviewed under caution and has been released under investigation.
Detective Sergeant Ceri Hunt, from the City of London Police, who lead the investigation said:
“Selling a fake face mask under the pretence it will keep the user safe and help stop the spread of coronavirus during a global public health crisis, shows the total disregard fraudsters have for people’s lives.
“The swift, joined-up action taken by police, Border Force and our partners across the globe, shows there are no boundaries to our work in fighting intellectual property crime and protecting the public.”
Detective Superintendent Paul Denn from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said:
“We’re really pleased with the results last week and glad that our action has helped to put a stop to these ruthless criminals who were trying to a make profit from selling counterfeit medical masks during a global pandemic. Not only is it damaging to the economy but it would have been extremely dangerous if these substandard goods had of made it out for public consumption.
Chris Mills, Director of Copyright and IP Enforcement for the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) said:
“The UK is recognised for having one of the best IP enforcement regimes in the world, testament to the close working relationship between all of our enforcement partners.
“Congratulations to all the agencies involved for the collaboration and swift action that led to this outstanding result.”
Four raids, led by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and Greater Manchester Police, have uncovered an estimated £15 million worth of branded clothing, shoes, electricals, watches, jewellery, and perfume suspected to be counterfeit. Suspected counterfeit medication was also found and seized.
In total over 45,000 items were seized, with an estimated loss to brands of £15 million, if sold at retail price.
The joint action between the three forces, Border Force and Immigration Services, also saw seven people arrested - six for offences relating to the importation and distribution of counterfeit goods and one for intent to supply prescription drugs.
Four premises in Strangeways, Manchester, were raided by officers between Monday 19 and Wednesday 21 April 2021, in a large scale operation aimed at cracking down on the sale of counterfeit goods. The search warrants, which developed from a previous operation that involved the sale and distribution of counterfeit items, saw 60 officers and staff working together.
The investigation is still ongoing, but officers have so far seized suspected counterfeit shoes, clothing, handbags, watches, makeup, perfume, sunglasses, batteries, headphones and medication. Fake brand labels have also been seized. These are often imported separately to be sewn onto counterfeit clothing and shoes.
Mobile phones and cash has also been seized from those arrested.
Superintendent Peter Ratcliffe, of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said:
“Selling counterfeit goods is illegal and, in the case of counterfeit electricals and medication, extremely dangerous.
“This huge three day operation, plus the number of arrests and vast amount of evidence seized, should send a strong message to other criminals involved in counterfeit goods that it won’t be tolerated.
“For the public, it is vital to remember you don’t know what other crimes you are funding when buying counterfeit goods, or the conditions those working for the criminals are conducting their business in.
“This operation showed the effectiveness of partnership working and I thank Greater Manchester Police, and our other partners involved, for all their help.”
Detective Superintendent Paul Denn from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said:
“Buying and selling counterfeit goods is not a victimless crime. As well as damaging legitimate businesses, it helps to fund organised crime, and with that often comes violence.
“Whenever we receive intelligence about illegal goods, we will always work closely with our colleagues in the City of London Police and other partners to investigate and take the appropriate action.”
Inspector Helen Hallworth, of Greater Manchester Police’s City of Manchester division, said:
"Working in partnerships such as this is instrumental when tackling counterfeit operations, as each unit is able to bring its own precise specialisms to help achieve the most effective policing operation. City of London is the national policing lead for fraud and we welcome their involvement along with that from our other partners from the NW PIPCU unit as well as Immigration and Border Force when tackling counterfeit operations within the Greater Manchester area.
"Please be under no false illusions that the selling of counterfeit goods is a victimless crime. Selling counterfeit goods is illegal and the money made in these shops helps to fund organised crime, lining the pockets of criminals for much more sinister crimes which can have a devastating impact on our communities.
"Finally, be aware that counterfeit goods can pose a serious health risk to individuals as they have not undergone the health and safety checks that are mandatory for mainstream goods.”
A new unit set up to tackle intellectual property fraud in the north west has already seized £1.7m worth of fake goods, including clothes, electricals and fireworks.
The City of London Police, the lead force for fraud, has partnered with the Intellectual Property Office and the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit to set up the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. This is an extension of its intellectual property capability, based in the City, which is focussed on intellectual property crime, ranging from copyright offences to fake goods.
The unit will combat intellectual property crime in the north west of England and will support existing partners to disrupt and prosecute existing and new offenders.
On Thursday 4 March 2021, officers executed five warrants for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) offences, which resulted in two arrests, the seizure of electrical items, cash and counterfeit goods.
Superintendent Pete Ratcliffe, City of London Police, said:
“The world of intellectual property crime is constantly evolving and the formation of the North West Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit clearly demonstrates that police, Government and industry are committed to protecting the UK from both established and emerging threats, many of which are now operating from online platforms.
“Intellectual property crime costs our economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year and threatens thousands of jobs. The unit has ongoing investigations with an estimated potential loss to industry of £2.3m.
“Through launching the NWPIPCU, we are sending out a clear warning to organised crime groups that IP crime won’t be tolerated.
Superintendent, Paul Denn of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said:
“We’re delighted to launch an Intellectual Police Property Crime Unit here in the North West today, thanks to our partners in the City of London Police. Partnerships such as these are vital when tackling counterfeit operations as they bring specialisms together from across the country to make a real difference.
“Today’s activities are just the start of a series of operations we will be undertaking to investigate the scale of the problem here in the North West.
“I’d like to remind members of the public that although ‘fake goods’ may seem like an innocent way to bag a bargain, the counterfeit goods business is not a victimless crime. When people buy these goods, they’re helping to fund serious and organised crime, which in turn can lead to more drugs, guns and violence on our streets – not to mention leaving genuine businesses out of pocket.”
The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) based in London was set up in2013 to protect UK industries which produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content. The operationally independent unit is funded by the Intellectual Property Office, which is part of the Department for Business Innovation. The unit works with a wide range of national and international partners from public authorities and private industry to build a comprehensive UK policing response to the threat of online intellectual property crime.
The North West unit will also be focused on influencing online behaviour by site owners, service providers and consumers through education, prevention and enforcement activity, and providing offenders where appropriate with opportunities to accept restorative justice.
IPO CEO, Tim Moss said:
“We are delighted to be further strengthening our partnership with City of London Police and building a new one with North West Regional Organised Crime Unit. Effective collaboration is vital for success in combatting IP crime. We are excited about the vital role the new IP crime hub will play in supporting the already impressive capability of this partnership, helping to reduce counterfeit goods and copyright offences in the north west”
The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit have launched an investigation into counterfeit baby carriers being sold on eBay.
Officers have identified, and contacted, a number of customers who have already purchased fake Ergobaby Omni 360 baby carriers, but are encouraging anyone else who may have unwittingly bought one of these counterfeit items to get in touch.
T/Detective Inspector Kevin Ives, from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said:
“If you have purchased an Ergobaby carrier online, but not via the company’s official website, you could be using a fake.
“A counterfeit item such as this could cause harm to you and your baby and it’s important you stop using it immediately.
“If you think you’ve purchased one of these items, please call 101 and ask to be put through to the City of London Police.”
An Ergobaby spokesperson said:
“We greatly appreciate the City of London Police’s assistance in stopping counterfeit Ergobaby carriers being sold. We know parents and carers want the best and safest products for their children, but counterfeit products can be dangerous and may cause harm as they are not verified by us, and therefore we cannot be sure that they adhere to our rigorous standards of quality and care. We use high quality, certified materials that are produced in independently inspected facilities which adhere to responsible work practices.
“Because of our uncompromised premium quality and construction, genuine Ergobaby carriers come with the ErgoPromise Guarantee, a 10-year warranty on any manufacturing or material defects, to ensure parents’ peace of mind that their carrier is built to last. This dedication to excellence has led to our carriers winning numerous international product awards and health endorsements, only serving to make it more damaging when counterfeits try to deceive parents into believing their fake products are genuine Ergobaby products.
“We do our utmost to make sure parents are aware of the pitfalls of purchasing counterfeits and remind them that the safest way to ensure they are buying authentic products is by visiting our website and buying there, or through our authorised retailers. If anyone has any concerns that their product is not genuine then they can get in touch with us via our customer support team at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Further information can be found at: https://ergobaby.com/counterfeits
The three leaders of an organised crime group, who worked together to import counterfeit trainers and distribute them internationally, have been sentenced.
On Tuesday 09 February 2021, Xiaoguang Xia, 37 of Kempsters Gardens, Salford, M7, Jian Lin, 38, of Kempsters Gardens, Salford, M7 and Yingpen Qu, 40, of Larch Gardens, Manchester, M8 were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court.
Xia was sentenced to two years imprisonment, Lin to eight months imprisonment, suspended for two years and Qu to 12 months community order and 50 hours unpaid work.
Officers from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) seized 280,000 pairs of counterfeit shoes, computer equipment and approximately £20,000 in cash at the warehouse and high street store owned by Xia. Thousands of branded labels imported separately to be sown onto counterfeit clothing and shoes were also seized.
Detective Constable, Daryl Fryatt, who led the investigation said:
“Selling counterfeit goods is illegal. These arrests have caused major disruption to an organised crime gang which has been involved in intellectual property crime worldwide, for years. This has hopefully sent a strong message to other criminals involved in counterfeit goods that it won’t be tolerated and you will be brought to justice.
“For the public it is vital to remember you don’t know what other crimes you are funding when buying counterfeit goods, or the conditions those working for the criminals are working in.
“This operation showed the effectiveness of partnership working and I thank each organisation involved for their help in shutting down this organised crime group”.
The investigation began with a referral from the Intellectual Property Office and Trading Standards and led to three warrants being executed by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) with help from Greater Manchester Police, Border Force, Trading Standards, Manchester Fire Service and UK Immigration Services. Fake goods belonging to the group had been seized at various markets and through various sellers since 2015 and were all linked the warehouse and high street store raided by PIPCU.
Financial investigations revealed that the business account owned by Zia and Qu received payments between May 2016 and January 2019, to the value £2.3 million. The bank account regularly sent payments of £10,000 to a bank account in China, with the reference ‘gifts for children’.
ACG represents more than 3,000 brands affected by this influx of fakes into the UK and delivers an international network of information, advice and contacts on all aspects of IP protection. Working with Government and law enforcement agencies since 1980, ACG is focused on providing an effective and sustained response to counterfeiting.
Membership with the ACG is the best way to work with government and enforcement bodies to protect your brand. Our Roadshows and training days help you reach out to police, trading standards and border force officers and tell them about your genuine products.