Consumer warning: Apple Airpods are set to be the counterfeit item of Christmas

Recent data shows that Apple Airpods are set to be the counterfeit item of Christmas, with trading standards already having seized up to £134,000* worth of counterfeits over the last year. More are predicted to make it onto the high street and online markets.

Data has been compiled from a series of Freedom of Information requests from Trading Standards, covering 26 councils across the UK**, including data on individual London boroughs. This data, processed on behalf of online retailer Vape Club, reveals that from 1177 raids in 2019 by the responding Trading Standards over half a million items were seized.

The fake designer clothing goods market is a known issue throughout the UK. Trading Standards data reveals the brands that shoppers should check twice whether genuine — Chanel items made up 33% of the designer label goods seized, followed by Versace with 27% and Louis Vuitton with 11%.

It reveals that clothing and accessories were the most seized item, making up over 56% of the total.

Data reveals the top counterfeit products found in the UK:

1. Clothing and accessories — 56% (of total items seized)

2. Tobacco and related products — 28%

3. Electrical items —  6%

4. Phone accessories — 3%

5. Cosmetics — 3%

6. Toys — 2%

Christmas shoppers are warned to be aware of counterfeit products, as they are potentially unsafe and could pose a risk to the public. Parents are warned to be aware of toys purchased this Christmas. The 2% of toys seized in the UK represents 8622 toys deemed counterfeit and unsafe. 1269 items of children’s fancy dress was also seized in the last year.

Tobacco and counterfeit cigarettes were found to be the biggest counterfeit issue facing the UK high streets in number of seizure raids. Across the UK tobacco and tobacco related products accounted for over 39% of all seizure raids by Trading Standards over the last year. Items seized from these raids account for 28% of the total products.


Worryingly in the run up to New Year’s resolutions, and after the issues that have been faced in the USA with illness stemming from counterfeit e-liquids, there have been nearly 900 potentially dangerous cases of Trading Standards finding similar products in the UK. The majority of these were identified by Liverpool Council Trading Standards.

Dan Marchant, Director of UK e commerce website Vape Club, comments on the difficulties experienced by retailers:

“We know there are a lot of counterfeit products on the black market — some of them look so similar to the original even the manufacturers have trouble telling them apart. But it’s the lack of knowledge about what’s inside or in what conditions they are produced that’s cause for concern. Much as concerns over fake alcohol, tobacco and medicines potentially causing risk to the public as knock-off goods, we feel that there is a growing need for a crackdown in our industry as well as the wider issue needing to be tackled.

Speaking as a retailer, we need to see a funding of the enforcement agencies so that they are able to take down the illegal counterfeit businesses operating in the country. Hopefully with the dangers being exposed we can encourage shoppers to steer clear of the counterfeit products and only buy from a reputable retailer!”

Online shoppers warned to check the source:

Online shoppers are encouraged to be aware of where the products are being posted from. Check the legitimacy before purchasing.

Data shows that 30% of all counterfeit items seized in the UK by Trading Standards came from London — a huge 153,538 items in the last year.

Looking further into the data, Barking and Dagenham was found to be the highest counterfeit density council in the UK, with 3.17 counterfeit items per every person in the council.

The highest density counterfeit councils (number of counterfeit items seized per person):

  • Barking and Dagenham — 3.17

  • Liverpool — 3.60

  • Newcastle upon Tyne — 10.91

  • Hackney — 11.42

  • Ealing — 14.06

  • Brent — 15.97

  • Manchester — 20.72

  • Waltham Forest — 32.80

  • London — 57.97

  • Kensington & Chelsea — 66.75

Outside of the capital, Liverpool came in a close second for the number of items seized per population, with 3.6 items for every person. This totaled 153,498 items, 29.84% of the UK total.

Cities that shoppers should also be wary of counterfeit products include Manchester and Newcastle, from which each had nearly 25,000 counterfeit items seized within the last year.

Nick Titchener, Trading Standards offence solicitor from Lawtons Solicitors, was asked how Trading Standards identify and prosecute the counterfeiters:

“Where identified, cases involving counterfeit goods are often robustly prosecuted by the Trading Standards Agencies that operate within local areas, resulting in serious consequences for those concerned.

The offences that are targeted by trading standards agencies range from those where technical infringements are alleged and there is no risk of physical harm or risk to the public to those cases where there is significant risk physical harm or death due to dangerous or unsafe products being supplied or sold.

Using a network of cross border intelligence and often with undercover officers conducting test purchases, online or in person, investigations are conducted undercover until such time as there is sufficient evidence to warrant an arrest, the seizure of goods or prosecution of an individual or company. With sentences ranging from significant financial penalties to custodial sentences, the consequences of being involved in the distribution of counterfeit goods can be serious.”