With sales on electrical goods looming, and the festive period only around the corner, many of us may be taking the time to purchase gifts early and grab a bargain at the same time. In the lead up to Cyber Monday, how can we spot the difference between the genuine article and a potentially dangerous counterfeit knock-off?
We previously looked at Black Friday, and interestingly, the uplift in sales that many online retailers saw in 2020, particularly in relation to the home and garden sector.
With the genuine retailers out there, come other dishonest and less-reputable vendors, who can put the health, safety, and finances of consumers at risk through selling substandard and counterfeit goods, hiking prices when there is increased demand, and others who simply do not follow through on transactions.
Counterfeit electronics can pose risks to health and safety, as well as present fire risks. Lower prices on these cheap, copycat, counterfeit electronic goods can come at a cost, with the components used to produce them being of a sub-standard quality to the real thing.
In addition to the production methods, many counterfeit electronics are not subjected to the rigor of safety testing. This not only poses safety risks, but often means that the items do not have the same life span of genuine products. Buying cheap, knock-off products can mean buying twice.
Electrical Safety First highlight the process that is used by manufacturers to bring products to market in the EU. They outline that manufacturers are required to meet several basic requirements to ensure that products they sell meet EU standards and are safe for consumers to use.
They highlight that key components of this safety regime are the Low Voltage Directive (LVD) and the CE mark, both of which legitimate manufacturers must abide by in order to sell products in the UK and the EU.
So, what are these components?
Low Voltage Directive (LVD) – This sets out the basic standards that electrical goods must meet before being placed on the market.
CE Mark – This is a visible self-declaration by the manufacturer that the product has been assessed before being placed on the market. The CE mark means that the manufacturer assumes full responsibility for their product and that they have gone through the proper processes of manufacturing and testing, meeting the legislative requirements of production.
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, for both the CE Mark, and 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 official packaging.
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 those 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.
Inflated pricing / hoarding
There are those who have previously taken the opportunity on Cyber Monday to purchase multiple consoles on pre-sale who and seek to make an inflated profits by hiking prices. Consumers have previously reported increased costs of up to 100% on consoles being sold through social media marketplaces and other resale sites.
With in-demand products such as games consoles, it’s always worth looking into whether the manufacturer will be offering second releases of popular consoles, and also worth checking with them to see when this will be happening, if it has not happened already. This not only ensures that you are not being charged exorbitantly for items, but by purchasing from reputable sources ensures that you can return goods should they develop faults.
Counterfeit electronics are of key concern heading towards Cyber Monday. By following simple guidance, we can ensure that we reduce our chances of being caught out.
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).
Consult with the manufacturer – When something is sold out online, there may be second releases. Check with manufacturers – this could save you time and allow proper recourse if things do go wrong.
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 you believe you have been sold counterfeit or substandard products and need more advice on the matter, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.
You can report suspected scams and suspicious activity by visiting scamwatch.scot.
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