Hot off the heels of National Consumer Week Scotland 2022 last week, Advice Direct Scotland are asking Scottish consumers to wear their ‘savvy shopper’ badges pride of place for a bit longer – to help avoid being caught out by counterfeit cosmetics and problematic products in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
This year, Black Friday falls on Friday the 25th of November, with Cyber Monday happening on Monday the 28th.
The two events are sales days, where many retailers offer reduced prices on items online and in-store. Cyber Monday places more focus on electrical items and other household goods.
As always, with the opportunity of a bargain, comes the potential risk of purchasing counterfeit and substandard products that can potentially pose risks to ourselves and our families.
Counterfeit cosmetics and other goods can pose health and safety risks to those using them –
- Counterfeit fragrances and cosmetics may contain harmful chemicals that may cause skin irritation, burning or even permanent disfigurement if applied to the skin.
- Counterfeit toys and children’s products may contain high levels of chemicals such as boron, and present choking hazards with loose buttons, stuffing, and small parts.
- Counterfeit electrical goods can be made with poor quality components that present fire risks, as well as limiting the lifespan of the products.
There are also risks associated with electrical items, especially those produced abroad, where manufacturing and safety standards may not be up to par.
What should we watch out for when purchasing electronic items?
One of the main giveaways when it comes to assessing whether to buy items or not, is to assess the packaging, both for the CE Mark, as well as for differences when compared to the genuine manufacturer’s website.
Many fake items will display pictures of different models of items, the most notable being different colours and shapes of products. By making a comparison to the genuine article being sold directly by the manufacturer, as well as through reputable retailers, we can reduce the risk of purchasing the fakes.
This can take a bit of research but is worth it in comparison to the potential risks of the alternative route. Be wary though, counterfeiters can be convincing in their emulation of the official packaging.
UKCA Marking & Selling Products in the UK
The UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking is the product marking used for products being placed on the market in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).
The UKCA marking applies to most products previously subject to the CE marking. It also applies to aerosol products that previously required the reverse epsilon marking. The technical requirements (sometimes referred to as ‘essential requirements’) that manufacturers must meet for the UKCA marking will depend on the product specific legislation for their product.
Spelling Errors on sales materials / packaging
This can also be a giveaway of potential counterfeit goods. Check for examples of poor spelling on the packaging and instruction manuals. Genuine manufacturers will spend time and money to ensure that their information and brand are presented in the professional and correct manner.
Postal / Contact Details
Another way of ensuring the products we purchase are the genuine article is to check for postal addresses supplied for manufacturers. Keep an eye out for Post Office Box (P.O. Box) addresses, as this can mean that the supplier is trying to avoid publication of an actual address, which can make seeking recourse more difficult in worst-case scenarios.
Websites that have ‘. co.uk’ or ‘.com’ can still be selling counterfeit items, with use of more recognisable domains in an attempt to seem legitimate. Just because the domain looks authentic, doesn’t mean that the items will be.
Trusted and Familiar retailers are best
In order to ensure that the electronics we buy are safe, and will last the test of time, purchasing from trusted retailers can help in ensuring that products have been tested and aren’t made with cheap, substandard components.
Purchasing from trusted retailers can also ensure that in situations where problems present themselves, we can more easily seek recourse, such as returns or refunds.
consumeradvice.scot have put together our top tips for avoiding being caught out this Black Friday and Cyber Monday –
Avoid the counterfeits – they can pose health and safety issues and have a shorter lifespan than genuine goods from trusted retailers. Buying cheap can mean buying twice!
Check the packaging / manufacturer information – counterfeit goods will often come in different packaging to the genuine article. This may include spelling mistakes, a lack of safety marks and missing or vague manufacturer address information (postal and web addresses). Check for evidence of testing on cosmetic products – avoid anything untested, or unregulated.
Consult with the manufacturer – When something is sold out online, there may be alternatives available elsewhere. Check with manufacturers and purchase for reputable suppliers and websites – this could save you time and allow proper recourse if things do go wrong.
Know your seller – Check where the purchase is coming from – your rights may differ if the retailer you are purchasing from is based outside of the UK.
Keep Calm and Stay Savvy – Don’t get carried away with unnecessary or unaffordable purchases!
Avoid purchasing if at all unsure! – Do not be rushed into a sale by the offer of lower prices and limited stock. Weigh up your options. If it sounds too good to be true – it probably is!