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Fake goods worth £11.7m seized at Southampton docks by UK Border Force
AT a first glance they appear to be gifts that could be found under a Christmas tree.
But these counterfeit goods seized at Southampton Docks have been shipped into the country for one reason – to con you out of your hard-earned cash this Christmas.
UK Border Force officers operating at the docks have detained 238,000 fake goods worth £11.7m so far this year.
They are dealing with more counterfeit items coming through the port with Christmas fast approaching, with criminals producing unsafe and cheap goods to match high street trends in time for the festive season.
The goods are shipped from all over the world, but the majority come from the Far East, and it is estimated to cost the UK economy around £1.3bn every year.
The Daily Echo was given an insight into the operation carried out by officers all year round – and how they aim to stop shipments of fake items coming into the port.
It comes as the border force and Trading Standards launched a public campaign warning shoppers to be careful about what they buy and where they buy their Christmas presents from.
Our reporters were shown boxes full of items such as counterfeit Emporio Armani boxers, Louis Vuitton handbags, Beats by Dre headphones, Converse trainers, and RayBan sunglasses, stacked high in two storage warehouses at the docks.
Cheap clothing branded with the recognisable Hello Kitty cartoon and Disney characters, and imitation Cath Kidston bags, also make up a large number of impounded merchandise.
They were shown hundreds of untested and potentially dangerous phone chargers, iPad covers, fake Hermes belts, and Barcelona chairs, which are worth up to £1,000 at retail price, and a selection of garish, multi-coloured Buddha statues.
Sarah Charles, assistant director of UK Border Force, said the organisation works with the National Crime Agency to tackle this form of organised crime.
She said: “We detain the goods, examine them, and we would contact the people that own the property rights if we have any doubt. So we would contact Louis Vuitton and they would then take the course of action.
“It is my understanding that there has been £70m-worth of counterfeit goods come through the nation’s ports over the past year.”
The force works closely with Southampton City Council’s trading standards department, which acts on intelligence and tip-offs to stop the counterfeit goods reaching the high street.
Clive Robinson, from the trading standards department, said fake goods are a huge threat to the city’s economy.
He said: “We receive complaints from members of the public who have bought poor quality goods. We visit markets and car boot sales, and gather a significant amount of information from brand holders.
“We see it as illegal activity. It takes money away from the city’s legitimate businesses and that means consumers inevitably buy substandard products with significant safety issues.
“The sunglasses are not going to be optically correct, and we see a lot of counterfeit alcohol, particularly spirits, which contain industrial alcohol.
“Businesses need to know where they are buying from. They need to have proper invoices, phone numbers and addresses. You cannot buy large branded products from wholesale outlets in China.”
Lisa Lovell, from Brand Enforcement UK, which represents the Beats by Dre firm, said: “If consumers are paying less than the main price, it’s that phrase of ‘if it’s too good to be true, it probably is’.
Counterfeiters “If I was a consumer, I would check the main website and with the main distributors, not at a local market stall or car boot sale. Beats by Dre headphones are not going to be £15.”
Ruth Orchard, director-General of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, which represents most of the brands under attack by counterfeiters, said: “Counterfeiters gear up for Christmas like legitimate manufacturers and retailers. Most fakes are still made overseas and once they enter the country millions of pounds worth of counterfeits appear for sale at markets, discount stores, car boot sales and on the internet.
“Everyone loves a bargain, but consumers need to know that behind every fake is a complex chain of criminals and fraudsters with one aim – to part you from your cash and use it to fund more serious organised crime.”
Fake goods - the numbers
• Some 238,000 counterfeit goods, totalling £11.7m, has been detained by UK Border Force officers at Southampton Docks this year.
• Imports of fake goods cost the country’s economy around £1.3bn a year.
• Items detained at Southampton Docks included 580 Louis Vuitton bags, 400 Louis Vuitton branded belts, more than 22,000 branded sunglasses, and 2,000 items of fake jewellery.
• The UK Border Force detained more than 32,000 consignments of Intellectual Property infringing goods in postal traffic, and more than 1,300 consignments in air and sea cargo, fast parcel and vehicle traffic.
• Border Force officers operate 24 hours a day at the port.
• Intellectual property owners – the brand manufacturers – have ten days to decide what to do with a detained haul of fake goods.
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