Christmas shopping 2013: the fake gifts to watch out for

6 December 2013

The average person will spend £367 on presents this year, according to But whatever you spend, Trading Standards officers have issued a warning to be on the lookout for festive fakes.

West Sussex Trading Standards officers claim there is likely to be a rise in counterfeit goods as the festive season approaches - and have issued warnings about a number of products. They state that, while most fake goods will be of poor quality, some may even be dangerous.

The officers have singled out the following items as ones to watch out for:

• Unsafe copies of Apple's triangular plug charger. It it's marked 'Emerson Network Power' with a 'Made In China' logo, it could destroy your device and give you a 240-volt shock, according to Trading Standards.

• Fake iPhone 5 chargers. These can blow the electrics in your home. Following a complaint, Trading Standards officers carried out a test of a similar charger - again, not advertised as an Apple charger - and it was found to be unsafe. Indeed, the shop selling it was found to have almost 300 chargers for phones and laptops that did not have adequate labelling: four out of five of them failed safety tests.

• Barbie-style doll containing phthalates. This doll contained bis (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) at 26.5%, when it should have contained no more than 0.1% by mass. Phthalates have been linked to damage to the reproductive system, and an increased risk of asthma and cancer. If children chew on toys containing phthalates they can absorb the chemicals through their mouths.

• Electronic cigarettes. Trading Standards officers have recently come across the case of a consumer who purchased electronic cigarettes with a charging time of 2-3 hours. When plugged in, the cigarettes had completely burnt away and melted the handle of a nearby kettle.

• Foreign-labelled cigarettes and tobacco products. They may be cheaper but they're illegal in Britain and, according to Trading Standards, the content may kill you more quickly than legal products.

• Cheap mobile phone batteries - these can explode. Also beware of memory cards which may have far fewer gigabytes than stated, and items such as USB memory sticks, headphones, and 'designer label' handbags and clothing.

"We have found counterfeits in many places, including shops, markets, car boot sales and online," said Lionel Barnard, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member who oversees Trading Standards.

"With tight budgets it might be tempting, but please remember if you buy these goods you may be giving money to organised crime, as well as undermining legitimate businesses."

If you are unsure whether you are buying the real deal or a fake, ask youself the following questions:

• Are the goods much cheaper than you would expect?

• Is the product poorly made, perhaps with spelling mistakes on the packaging?

• If you're buying online, does the website give full contact details for the seller, including physical address?

• Be aware that web addresses ending in may not be in Britain.

• Use search engines to research websites to check for user problems.

If you think you have bought fake goods, or know anyone selling them, you can report it to Citizens Advice on 0845 040506 or online.

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