Don't get ripped off this Christmas

Published: 11 Dec 2017

With this year’s Christmas shopping rush well underway, Hertfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards team is offering consumers some simple advice to help them stay safe and not get ripped off this season.

Always buy from reputable sources. You may have to pay a bit more, but you are paying for the fact that the item has had quality checks and safety testing before it gets on the shelf. Cheap counterfeit versions of products, especially the latest fad or toy, are often poor quality which can easily break or, in some cases, be dangerous. It’s especially important that you buy toys from recognised outlets.

When buying, always check for branding on the packaging or product, and look for any spelling mistakes on the product, packaging or instructions. Is there a ‘CE’ mark? Is the product fitted with a three pin UK plug or charger?

If you’re buying electrical goods as presents, remind the recipient to register the products by going to so that they get notice of any safety information or product recalls.

Terry Hone, Executive Member for Community Safety, said: “Christmas is an expensive time of the year for everyone, especially families, and it’s understandable that people are tempted by cheap offers. But if the bargain looks too good to be true, it probably is.

“We wish everyone in Hertfordshire a happy and restful festive season and hope that these top tips will help you stay safe from the lead up to Christmas right through to New Year.”

Consumers can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service for further advice and guidance on 03454 040506.

Top tips for Christmas shopping:

Toy safety

  • Only buy toys from recognised outlets
  • All legitimate toys will have the ‘CE’ mark. Don’t buy without it.
  • Make sure the toy is suitable for the child - check the age range
  • Be particularly careful with toys for children under three – small parts are a choking hazard
  • Check for loose hair and small parts and sharp edges
  • Avoid counterfeit goods. Fake items are often of poor quality, potentially unsafe and their sellers are acting illegally
  • Check the voltage of electrical toys is 230V 50Hz (the UK’s usual domestic voltage)
  • Check the toy is fitted with a three-pin UK plug or charger
  • Use the charger that comes with the toy – cheap knock-off chargers can be dangerous

Make sure you know who you’re buying from

  • Before Christmas some previously empty shops are occupied by traders for a short time only and may not be there after the festive period
  • If your purchase costs more than £100, pay by credit card – it may offer you extra protection
  • Make sure you have the seller’s contact details so you can return faulty or items that don’t match their description

Fireworks for New Year

  • Buy fireworks from a reputable shop
  • Fireworks MUST have a ‘CE’ mark written on the box
  • Don’t buy fireworks from anywhere you’re not sure about, such as the back of a van or from a temporary, unlicensed market stall

According to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute:

  • Counterfeit make-up can contain lead, copper, mercury, arsenic or cadmium and can cause swelling, rashes and poisoning.
    • Fake alcohol can contain methanol, antifreeze and fuel, causing nausea, stomach pains, kidney or liver problems, coma or death.
    • Unofficial children’s merchandise such as toys and dressing-up clothes could pose numerous hazards with small loose parts, long cords and materials that are toxic or not conforming to fire retardant standards.
    • Poor quality and missing components in fake electrical goods and chargers can lead to electric shocks, fires and explosions – we all remember the ‘Hoverboard’ fiasco!
    • Profits made from counterfeit sales can go on to fund larger criminal operations, including organised crime and even terrorism.