Don’t play their game: Fighting counterfeit toys

By Stuart Fuller


This year, we can expect to see a host of major superhero film releases including Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad and Doctor Strange, to name just a few. Throw in the resurgence of Ghostbusters, Finding Dory and the Harry Potter films, and you have the perfect recipe to initiate the release of hundreds of must-have new toys and merchandise.

Alongside the inevitable wave of new toys flooding the retail market is the threat of counterfeit products however – an increasing problem for brands and their customers. At the end of 2015, over 1,000 counterfeit toys were seized on their way to Newcastle, and a further 60 dolls, based on the Maleficent film, containing highly dangerous chemicals were stopped from making their way to market by trading standards officers. These recent examples demonstrate just two of many cases of criminal counterfeiting and the scale of the problem.

The growth of online shopping has rapidly changed the way that consumers buy toys, but despite the profitability of tapping into this global marketplace for some retailers, it has increased the threat of counterfeiting – meaning brands and consumers must be on high alert. A report from the Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) found that 12% of toys and games sales are being lost annually in the UK due to fake goods – making it the second worst country to be hit by counterfeiters.

Fraudsters are clearly cashing in on the technological advances and are now able to set up extremely high-quality fake websites and listings on marketplace sites, resulting in customers unknowingly buying counterfeit versions of the items they intended to purchase.

In addition to losing revenue, a hard earned reputation associated with delivering value and quality can be dashed in the hands of counterfeiters when customers are disappointed with the substandard products they receive. NetNames’ research found that 78% of consumers would shun a brand if they found themselves on a bogus website pertaining to that brand, even if the company itself was not negligent. The online world also means that bad news travels everywhere, fast – with consumers sharing their experiences via social media or peer reviews in real time.

When it comes to counterfeit toys, consumers can suffer even worse consequences. Fake items can contain harmful materials and chemicals, and knock-off versions of electronic items can put consumers’ lives at risk, demonstrated by a series of exploding counterfeit hoverboards caused by faulty electrical parts. With a horde of new playthings hotly-anticipated for release in 2016, brands need to address these 21st century threats - and adopt a pro-active approach to stop cyber-criminals in their tracks.  When it comes to counterfeiting, play time is over.