EVERY weekend up and down the country, criminal gangs are infiltrating popular car boot sales and Sunday markets, ripping off the public and putting consumers and their families at risk. They are profiteering from the sale of fake goods - from sportwear to handbags, electrical goods to cosmetics and household products, toys to perfumes, football shirts, and even children’s clothing.
According to insurance company Prudential, Britons collectively spend £1.46bn a year at car boot sales - a huge market for the fakers to exploit.
A brand is like a kite-mark, guaranteeing quality and safety, but counterfeiters use famous brand names and logos on products which are nothing to do with the original manufacturer. In this way, they set out to trade on the reputation of the original, and often deceive consumers that the product is genuine.
The affected industries estimate that about a quarter of all fake goods in the UK are bought at markets and car boot sales.
Such goods are usually of poor quality, or just won’t work (with no rights of redress for consumers), while others are downright dangerous, with none of the safety testing required for the real thing.
Worryingly, there is also growing evidence that organised crime has moved into counterfeiting, as a way of both making money and laundering funds, and that children are being used to front up market stalls in order to protect the counterfeiters. Legitimate traders are adversely affected, as they can't compete with the low price of fakes, and increasing violence and intimidation is used to protect the fakers’ patches.
Law enforcement - trading standards and police - conduct raids on markets when resources permit, but the problem is on such a scale that counterfeiters are often able to return to the same place and repeat the offence.
Organisers of car boot sales should be aware that they are also at risk if they knowingly do nothing to stop fakes being sold on their patch. Redcar and Cleveland trading standards successfully prosecuted a car boot sale promoter at Redcar Racecourse in 2005, for aiding and abetting the crime of selling counterfeits, having proved that he'd known about the trade in fakes, but taken no effective action. He was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 costs.