Traders and individuals who decide to supply counterfeit goods over the internet or through local supply chains could face legal action and substantial penalties, Powys County Council has warned.
The warning has been issued by the council’s Trading Standards Service after it successfully prosecuted an individual for supplying counterfeit and unsafe make-up – some of which had dangerous levels of lead - prompting real safety concerns for users of the products.
Leanne Wetheim, 24, of Gilwern was given an eight month suspended prison sentence by Cardiff Crown Court today (Tuesday 3 July), ordered to carry out 160 hours community service as well as pay investigation costs of £2,000. She pleaded guilty to five charges under the Trades Mark Act 1994 at a previous hearing on 18 May.
A forfeiture order was made for all property seized at the defendant’s home, which included approximately 770 items of suspect counterfeit cosmetic products and equipment.
During the hearing, prosecution barrister Lee Reynolds explained that the proceedings involved an internet investigation conducted by the council’s trading standards officers which highlighted a suspect account on ebay selling makeup. With the support of Dyfed Powys Police, a warrant was executed in June 2011 following various test purchases of ‘MAC’ and ‘Benefit’ products from an online auction site run by Wertheim. The products found at the defendant’s premises were confirmed to be counterfeit by the relevant brand holders.
Evidence found that Wertheim turned over approximately £25,000 over an eighteen-month period selling make. She also received negative feedback from some customers about the quality of the make-up, many adding that it was fake but continued to sell the products through the four accounts on ebay she ran. The value of the goods seized was around £14,000, making the activity being close to £40,000.
A selection of products seized from the property was also sent away for scientific safety testing. Of the products sent for analysis, a counterfeit Max Factor Mascara was found to contain 68 mg/kg of lead, the legal level being 20 mg/kg. This level found being over three times the level of lead which is deemed safe.
Cllr Barry Thomas, the council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards, said: “We support legitimate businesses and local tax payers by targeting illegal shadow economy activities such as product counterfeiting by individuals, who have little regard to the county’s traders and only seek to further destabilise our economy.
“The levels of lead found to be contained in these products should also act as a deterrent to those who seek to purchase these products from these auction sites as they have no way of knowing what they contain, and ultimately the effect they may have on the health of the person buying.
“We will continue this work to support the intellectual property rights of our local businesses, the wider business community and also the safety of the public in general.”
Clive Jones, the council’s Principal Trading Standards Officer with responsibility for Special Investigations, said: “We welcome this sentence as a deterrent to those involved in making, importing and selling counterfeit goods. Firm action is needed on any issues related to product counterfeiting and safety to promote fair trading within our community.
“We have noticed that there’s a tendency for some people to be tempted to import large quantities of products from wholesale auction sites in the Far East and our investigations have highlighted that some of these supply chains involve counterfeit goods.
“What we encounter are individuals solely looking at profit, who have no experience in the product they are importing, no knowledge of legitimate supply chains or the original product and no concern about the safety of the product they are selling and don’t care about what effect it has on legitimate trade. We will stamp out these practises out through education and enforcement.
“Our surveillance on illegal activity involving counterfeiting is increasing and we ask users of auction sites or any person offered suspected counterfeit goods to be vigilant and to warn us of any suspicious sellers through our contact points. Alternatively ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Consumers wishing to identify any suspect goods can look on the website www.ibrand.co.uk which helps consumers identify genuine goods.
The council’s Trading Standards Service can be contacted on Brecon 01874 623420; Llandrindod Wells 01597 826032; Newtown 01686 617524. Alternatively email email@example.com or visit www.powys.gov.uk/tradingstandards