Don’t be ripped off online this Christmas

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Christmas shoppers are being warned to watch out for online scams in the build up to Christmas.

With the build up towards the festive season well under way, West Yorkshire Trading Standards has warned consumers to beware of social networking websites selling cheap branded goods.

Every year West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service receives hundreds of complaints from consumers who have bought counterfeit goods online thinking they are getting a bargain.

Often goods are described as genuine and are offered at discounted prices accompanied by photographs of the real thing.

But when the goods arrive they are often poor quality replicas, cheaply made in the far east.

There are also copycat websites which appear to be the brand’s own website, but which are set up by rogues to sell counterfeit products or to take consumers’ money with no intention of sending out the goods, which are not only inferior quality, but which carry serious safety concerns - particularly in relation to electrical items such as GHD hair straighteners, mobile phone chargers which may never have been safety checked.

Trading Standards has also issued a warning to the illegal traders that they could face imprisonment of up to 10 years if they are caught, and a new initiative is being launched to monitor facebook posts.

Graham Hebblethwaite, Chief Officer of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “Unfortunately, unscrupulous traders can be attracted to online sites such as Facebook as an easy opportunity to trade illegally, particularly in counterfeit and pirated goods.

“It is a serious problem across the UK and is often linked to criminal gangs for whom selling counterfeit goods is a relatively risk-free way to make money,” he said.

Councillor Conrad Winterburn (Greetland/Stainland, Lib Dem), Deputy Chair of the Trading Standards Committee said: “In the current financial climate consumers can be attracted to apparent bargains available online. Counterfeit and copied goods are detrimental to legitimate businesses, potentially unsafe for consumers and have a negative effect on the economy as a whole.

Anyone wishing to report cases where they’ve been misled or are suspicious of any such offers should contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.