Efforts to protect local consumers and small businesses from the harm caused by the growing trade in fake goods on local social media buying-and-selling groups are being boosted thanks to an important initiative.
The Real Deal Online programme is a national initiative that makes sure social media buying-and selling groups are not promoting the sale of counterfeit goods and other illicit products. It encourages closer working relationships between the groups and their local Trading Standards service.
During the run up to Christmas Trading Standards across Wales supported by the National Markets Group, Intellectual Property Office and National Trading Standards eCrime Team will be identifying buying-and-selling groups in Wales that are operating on social media. Contact will be made with administrators of the groups to make them aware of their legal responsibilities and to invite them to follow the Real Deal Online Code of Practice.
The Code of Practice requires group administrators to welcome officers of Trading Standards as members of the group and to agree to five simple steps:
1. To prohibit the sale of counterfeit and other illicit goods;
2. To act on information from IP rights owners and their representatives who highlight the sale of illegal goods;
3. To notify trading standards if they believe that illegal goods are being sold within the group and to exclude the sellers of these goods;
4. To highlight warnings and advice notices posted by trading standards;
5. To make sure that all members of the group are aware of its fake-free policy.
Selling groups that agree to follow the Real Deal Code of Practice will be allowed to display the Real Deal logo which will act as a visual assurance to shoppers and to traders that it is a fake-free shopping zone.
The new initiative is a natural extension of the Real Deal campaign which has been in place at physical markets and car boot fairs since 2009 and has seen over 500 markets across the UK sign-up to the voluntary Real Deal Charter to prevent the sale of fake goods. The campaign has been so successful that it has now been extended into the digital arena of online and social media marketplaces and is being rolled out by local authority Trading Standards Services across the UK.
It is vital that any illicit traders, who thinks they can make easy money by ripping off consumers with illegal, sub-standard, often dangerous counterfeits, are deterred at the earliest stage.
Judith Parry, Chair of Trading Standards Wales, said: “This programme demonstrates that Trading Standards are engaged in seeking out those who advertise fake goods on social media sites and will take appropriate action against them. Neither the internet nor social media offer an easy hiding place for those who attempt to trade illegally.
“Trading Standards services within Wales carry out excellent work to protect consumers and support traders. I hope that anyone running a buying-selling group across social media, will be motivated to engage in this project, and seek advice from Trading Standards to enable them to run their buying-selling group legally and responsibly.
“Adopting the Real Deal Code of Practice and displaying the logo provides reassurance for group members that it is a safe place to buy and sell. It also enables the administrator of a group to send a strong ‘keep out’ message to those seeking to use that group to sell counterfeit products and who clearly have no scruples about ripping off consumers, selling unsafe products or damaging local businesses.”
Gavin Terry, Chair of the National Markets Group for IP Protection, said: “Online and social media marketplaces are a growing phenomenon, offering many economic and social benefits. Just like markets and car boot fairs in the physical world, local buy-sell groups on social media platforms can provide great bargains and a friendly, lively environment for individuals to trade with each other. However, as online and social media marketplaces are not uniformly regulated, they can offer easy opportunities for those who wish to stay below the radar and trade illegally, particularly in counterfeits and copyright infringing products.
“When illicit traders move into a local selling group, a whole host of problems follow. Consumers are ripped off and sold inferior, potentially dangerous goods; revenue is lost from the economy to the black market; and often the trade in fakes is linked to the funding of organised crime.”
Mike Andrews, National Co-ordinator of the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, said: “Most shoppers and the administrators of buy-sell groups would be horrified to think that they may, unwittingly, be funding organised crime. And many administrators are not aware that, ultimately, they could be held responsible for allowing illegal products to be advertised by members of their group. The Real Deal Online programme is designed to help. It offers anyone running a local selling group the opportunity to work closely with participating Trading Standards Services who will help them to introduce procedures to deter illicit traders from joining the group and causing harm.”
Anyone running a buy-sell group in their area, who wishes to sign-up to the Real Deal Online Code of Practice, should contact their local Trading Standards Service.
More information on the Real Deal campaign is at www.realdealmarkets.co.uk