Shoppers warned about dangers of growing online trade of fake goods

As shoppers continue seek a post-Christmas bargain, a new initiative aims to combat the growing trade in fake goods on social media buying-and-selling groups.

Durham County Council’s trading standards service is launching a new scheme to protect local consumers and small businesses from fraudulent goods being sold online.

The Real Deal Online programme makes sure social media buying-and-selling groups are not promoting the sale of counterfeit goods and other illicit products, whilst encouraging closer working relationships between the groups and their local trading standards service.

Throughout the Christmas period, officers in the trading team will be contacting the administrators of groups to make them aware of their legal responsibilities and to invite them to follow the Real Deal Online Code of Practice.

The Code of Practice requires group administrators to welcome trading standards officers as members of the group and to agree to five simple steps:

  1. To prohibit the sale of counterfeit and other illicit goods.
  2. To act on information from intellectual property (IP) rights owners and their representatives who highlight the sale of illegal goods.
  3. To notify trading standards if they believe that illegal goods are being sold within the group and to exclude the sellers of these goods.
  4. To highlight warnings and advice notices posted by trading standards.
  5. To make sure that all members of the group are aware of its fake-free policy.

Selling groups that agree to follow the Real Deal Code of Practice, will be allowed to display the Real Deal logo which will act as a visual assurance to shoppers and to traders that it is ‘a fake-free shopping zone’.

The new initiative is an extension of the Real Deal campaign which has been in place at physical markets and car boot fairs for nearly ten years. It has seen around 500 markets across the UK sign-up to the voluntary Real Deal Charter to prevent the sale of fake goods.

Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “Durham County Council is absolutely committed to ensuring that its citizens, legitimate businesses and the wider community are protected from the harm caused by the trade in fake goods. It is vital that any illicit traders who think they can make easy money by ripping off consumers with illegal, sub-standard, often dangerous counterfeits, are deterred at the earliest stage.

“The internet and social media no longer offer an easy hiding place for those seeking to trade illegally. Introducing the Real Deal Code of Practice and displaying the logo is a reassurance for members of a group that it is a safe place to buy and sell. It also enables the administrator of a group to resend a strong ‘keep out’ message to any counterfeiting con-men who may try to infiltrate the group and who have no scruples about ripping off consumers, selling unsafe products or damaging local businesses.”

Mike Andrews, national co-ordinator of the National Trading Standards crime team, said: “Most shoppers and the administrators of buy-sell groups would be horrified to think that they may, unwittingly, be funding organised crime. And many administrators are not aware that they could be held responsible for allowing illegal products to be advertised by members of their group.

“The Real Deal Online programme is designed to help. It offers anyone running a local selling group the opportunity to work closely with participating trading standards services who will help them to introduce procedures to deter illicit traders from joining the group and causing harm.”

Anyone running a buy-sell group who wishes to sign-up to the Real Deal Online Code of Practice should contact Durham County Council’s trading standards team at tradingstandards@durham.gov.uk

More information on the Real Deal campaign is at www.realdealmarkets.co.uk

The initiative, adopted by the council, is directed by the National Markets Group (NMG), a multi-agency partnership working together to reduce the availability of counterfeit and pirated goods from markets, car boot sales and social media.

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