Published February 29, 2024

The new IPO campaign highlights the serious health risks these goods pose, empowering consumers to make informed choices

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has today launched its latest targeted awareness campaign, designed to help tackle consumer demand for counterfeit goods. 

The “Choose Safe, not Fake” campaign focuses on beauty and hygiene products, with research by the IPO finding that many consumers are unaware of the risks of using these. Insight produced for the IPO to underpin the new campaign identified that consumers purchasing such counterfeits wrongly assumed them to be produced in similar – or even the same – conditions as genuine products and were typically unaware of the health risks using them poses.  

Images taken during the course of enforcement activity, where such products have been seized, paint a different picture:  

‘Choose Safe, not Fake’ campaign targets counterfeit beauty and hygiene products

Testing carried out on a selection of seized counterfeit beauty and hygiene products showed them to contain carcinogenic ingredients such as beryllium oxide and harmful heavy metals (arsenic, lead, and mercury). Samples were also found to contain rodent urine and equine feces, providing further evidence of their unsanitary production.  

Taking inspiration from the aesthetics of archetypal beauty ads, the campaign brings together influencers, targeted social media advertising, and press to reveal these shocking and often dangerous ingredients, helping empower consumers to make informed choices. This builds on previous consumer campaign activities undertaken by the IPO since the publication of its ambitious five-year counter-infringement strategy, as the office continues to deliver on its commitments to raise public understanding, and ultimately respect, for IP rights.  

 Adam Williams, IPO Chief Executive and Comptroller said: “Through our new, highly focused campaign, we are delivering a very clear message – that the serious health risks these counterfeit goods pose can never amount to a ‘good deal’ for shoppers. 

 “Shining a light on the significant personal harms counterfeit beauty and hygiene products can cause, this campaign uses audience insight to target specific consumer groups through a range of media channels and aims to reduce their appetite for these goods. As we continue to work with our partners to tackle the threat of IP crime and infringement, activities to disrupt the supply and reduce demand for counterfeits form complementary elements to our approach.  

“Our counter-infringement strategy sets out the path ahead as we work together toward the long-term goal of making IP crime and infringement unacceptable to all.

“Campaigns such as this are an important starting point in this direction, but we all have more work to do to tackle this threat effectively. Our industry partners are a powerful and persuasive voice, and brand owners can play a vital role in helping to educate and empower the public.” 

Phil Lewis, Director General, Anti-Counterfeiting Group, said: “The Anti-Counterfeiting Group welcomes and supports the IPO’s latest consumer awareness campaign. Counterfeiting is a huge contributor to the international fraud scene, and criminals involved have only one thing in mind – money. The fakers of respected perfume, toiletry, and beauty products are part of this and have no regard for consumer safety. 

“We all have a role to play in protecting the public from this threat, and it is important to expose the reality of how criminals operate. We have witnessed counterfeiters using toxic ingredients that they have blended in industrial machines such as cement mixers. There are also widely circulating myths that fakes are genuine items that have come ‘from the same factory’. Moreover, the same people will use online sales to gain access to buyer identities and banking details, which are then used by global fraudsters.

“The simple message for consumers is choose wisely and choose safe – think twice before reacting to a bargain and handing your hard-earned cash to scammers and swindlers.”


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