Mandy Haeburn-Little: Fake goods are not a bargain

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We all love to find a bargain. Of course, there’s nothing wrong in hitting the sales or grabbing a cheap deal from a clearance bin or a retail website. But where it is definitely wrong is when know that the price is too good to believe and we turn a blind eye to the fact that it is likely an illicit or counterfeit product.

Fake goods are made in unregulated environments, without regard for health and safety regulations, so it’s impossible to know what’s in them.  We all love to save money, but is it worth risking your health or the health of a loved one for a few pounds?

Illicit trade also hurts businesses in Scotland very hard. People choosing dodgy bargains at markets, car boot sales or on the internet impacts hugely on retailers and manufacturers – and less genuine goods being sold closes businesses and put people out of work.

And then there is the very real evidence that every pound made from the sale of counterfeit goods goes towards funding serious and organised crime, with their close links to drug-running, prostitution and human trafficking.

That’s why it is so important we all need to take a step back to question the true cost of fake goods.

It is up to us all to work to tackle this problem and to change perceptions. We all need to take responsibilities not to buy illicit or counterfeit products to make Scotland a hostile environment for serious organised criminals.

And in case anyone thinks this is scaremongering, think again.

Counterfeit jewellery has been found to contain sub-standard ingredients that could, at best, cause a nasty rash while some cosmetics contain dangerous chemicals that could cause allergic reactions and more serious consequences. Paint stripper and nail varnish remover have been found in mascaras and liquid eyeliners and some bottles of perfume have been found to contain urine as a substitute for the proper stabilisers used in genuine fragrance.

From exploding fake candles to “do it yourself” tan injections, the extent some us will go to just to save a few pounds is dangerous. Would you give a toxic charm bracelet which could cause skin allergies or a fake cuddly toy that could be a choking hazard to a love one? And have a thought for innocent animals being skinned alive for imitation UGG boots?

Our first ever Anti Illicit Trade Summit in Edinburgh this week highlights the scale of the challenge – but it also provide a platform to hear how prevention, intelligence and enforcement is being enhanced to crack down on the problem. If we are to disrupt the activities of the serious and organised criminals, to protect our businesses and to clean up our communities, we all need to play our part by saying no the next time we think we’re onto a bargain.

• Mandy Haeburn-Little is director of Scottish Business Resilience Centre