By this time of year, a third of people in the UK have started to prepare for Christmas and the majority have begun shopping for Christmas presents for their family and friends.

But this year the high street is not benefiting, as COVID-19 continues to have a profound effect on the retail sector. With most shops closed due to government lockdown restrictions, early shoppers are turning to social media to buy their gifts.

According to PwC UK, consumers are expected to carry out 88% of Black Friday shopping online this year, up from 77% in 2019, because they are bringing forward Christmas spending.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) is warning consumers of fake and potentially dangerous goods that may appear on social media in the run up to Christmas. “Traders in counterfeit goods use brand names to try to openly sell their illicit products on social media. Some even offer home delivery” said Phil Lewis, the group’s Director General.

“With social media being so accessible to these sellers, they are trading from their front rooms and vans in car parks, selling fake items such as electrical goods, clothing, trainers, handbags, perfume, toys, makeup etc., bearing well established global brand names. Christmas shoppers are falling of this fraudulent activity. Consumers must be vigilant and check the product is being sold by a reputable source and report potentially counterfeit goods when it seems suspicious.”

Operation CAROL, a collaborative enforcement campaign coordinated by ACG, is currently underway and is taking-down prolific Facebook and Instagram traders that are impacting on its member brands. The operation is made possible with collaboration from Facebook and UK Intellectual Property Office.

“These traders are deceiving consumers and selling counterfeit goods, many of which will be dangerous and unsafe. This operation, which coincides with Black Friday and National Consumer Week, will help protect innocent people who are simply seeking a bargain and instead may be receiving inferior goods, that are not genuine brands. We aim to restrict the availability of counterfeit goods on these platforms at this critical time of year” commented Graham Mogg, ACG Intelligence coordinator.

“We are very grateful to Facebook and the Intelligence Hub at the Intellectual Property Office without whom this operation would not be possible.’’

A spokesperson for Facebook said ‘’Facebook takes intellectual property rights, including issues concerning counterfeits, extremely seriously and applies a variety of measures to action violating content. More information about how Facebook protects intellectual property can be found in this anti-counterfeiting guide in its Business Help Center.’’

Operation CAROL has worked with Facebook and Instagram to report content of potentially counterfeit products for removal and to protect the interests of consumers and legitimate business who are struggling to survive in these difficult times.

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