British consumers now twice as likely to buy a counterfeit electrical product

07 June 2016


As organisations around the world mark World Anti-Counterfeiting Day, UK charity Electrical Safety First reveals that an estimated 2.5 million Brits have, knowingly or by accident, purchased a counterfeit electrical product in the last 12 months2. This is double the number of people that reported purchasing a counterfeit the previous year3.

Electrical Safety First investigated consumer attitudes towards counterfeit electrical goods for two years running; the results show that not only are purchases of counterfeits on the rise, but that the counterfeit marketplace is shifting too. British consumers reported that they were twice as likely to see counterfeit electrical products for sale near them or online as they were one year ago.

Looking specifically at where counterfeit sales are being made, it’s clear that a new marketplace has emerged with 7% of people reporting that they have bought counterfeit electrical products through a social media advert.  Online retailers still account for the majority of counterfeit purchases; three in five4 of all counterfeit electrical purchases take place online.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, cost is the most influential factor on those who consider purchasing counterfeit electrical items. One in twelve people5 said that they would choose to buy a suspected fake electrical product if it was cheaper than the original (compared to just 4% last year). But over half of people6 who had bought a fake electrical product said they had experienced a problem with the item, compared to just 39% a year ago.

Electrical Safety First has carried out tests on popular counterfeit electrical products such as e-cigarettes and blenders. The tests reveal that while many items appear sophisticated on the outside, even those with small fake internal components are at risk of exploding, leaving consumers open to serious injury or property damage.

On World Anti-Counterfeiting Awareness Day, Electrical Safety First is warning the public to ‘shop smart’; whether people are purchasing through a social media group, in store or at a market.

Emma Apter, Head of Communications at Electrical Safety First, says: 

“This research is concerning as it shows that although we’re more aware of counterfeits than before, more of us are taking the risk and buying a counterfeit electrical product. While cost is an important factor in any purchase, it’s vital for shoppers to be aware of the risks they could be taking when buying a fake product.

“Counterfeits are now more readily available than ever, from social media to the local market. Despite the fact that some fake electrical products appear to have a sophisticated and convincing design, they can contain less than half the internal components required to run safely. We’re urging people to ‘shop smart’, at best you could be swindled but at worst you could be putting your life at risk. The best way to guarantee an item’s legitimacy is to buy directly from official retailers either online or in-store.”

Alison Statham, Anti-Counterfeiting Group, Director of Operations says:

“Both Europol and Interpol recognise counterfeiting as an extremely dangerous, multinational, organised crime activity, with links to sinister networks across the world. In the UK, we have notorious hotspots such as Wellesbourne, Stratford, and Cheetham Hill in Manchester; sales of fakes in areas such as these are destroying the UK’s international reputation for fair trade and investment. Most importantly, they also undermine community safety and result in massive losses in public revenue, trade and jobs.”

Paul Toner knows just how easy it is to be fooled by fake products online after buying a counterfeit NutriBullet from an online marketplace last year. Paul says:

“I’ve purchased many products online before and nothing about this item set alarm bells ringing. The price was marginally cheaper than high street retailers, so I believed I was getting a discount and trusted the seller as I thought I was buying directly from Amazon. When the Nutribullet arrived it was clearly shoddily made and there wasn’t even a warranty – looking back I was really lucky, had it been more professionally designed I might have plugged it in and been seriously injured! I’m now incredibly careful when shopping online, it was a real wakeup call for just how easy it is to be taken in.”

Electrical Safety First is warning all shoppers to know the risks that accompany counterfeit electrical products and to look out for the signs of a counterfeit. The Charity has created the Safe Shopper’s Guide for shoppers, offering tips for spotting counterfeit items and what to do if you’ve been scammed. Visit to see the guide.


For more information please contact:

Muireann Kirby T:  020 3463 5105 E:

Christina Copp T: 020 3463 5129 E:

Editors’ Notes

  • Electrical Safety First is a UK Charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity. More information can be found at
  • All consumer research, unless otherwise stated, was conducted between the following dates: 22 April and 9 May 2016 and 17 April and 28 April 2015. Research was carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Electrical Safety First with a sample of 1,978 adults in 2016 and 2,013 in 2015. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults.
  • World Anti-Counterfeiting Day (8th June 2016) is now in its eighteenth year and was established by the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group Network members to enable the organisation of local, national and regional events under the umbrella of an international campaign which could focus on the particular problems of counterfeiting in the countries or regions involved. For more information visit

 Tips for safer shopping online

  1. Look for the seller’s contact details. Make sure there is a full address and not just a PO Box number. Not all websites with a address are based in the UK
  2. Check the voltage of products is 230V, 50Hz (the UK’s usual domestic voltage) and that they are fitted with a three-pin UK plug or charger
  3. Look for websites that allow you to pay safely – these have a padlock symbol at the bottom of the screen when you are filling in your payment details
  4. Do a price check and, if you have time, visit the high street too. If a bargain looks too good to be true, the chances are it probably is


  1. Ipsos MORI, 2016 14% of UK adults had seen a counterfeit electrical product for sale online or near them. In 2015 and 7% of UK adults had seen this. 4% of UK adults had knowingly or unknowingly bought a counterfeit electrical product in 2016, versus 2% in 2015
  2. Ipsos MORI, 2016, 4% of UK adults
  3. Ipsos MORI, 2015, 2%  of UK adults
  4. Ipsos MORI, 2016, 60% of all purchases of counterfeit electrical products took place online
  5. Ipsos MORI, 2016, 8% of UK adults

Ipsos MORI, 2016, 56% of UK adults