LTS reports that the majority of masks seized had been labelled with false claims or fake safety certificates and around 4.25 million had to undergo label amendments before they were subsequently released. However, 2.25 million have been found not to comply with legal safety standards. Trading standards teams examined a further 1.5 million face masks where no issues were found. Many of the consignments were referred to trading standards by Border Force teams at the airport.
The teams also seized 8,000 fake hand sanitisers, branded Andrex and Comfort, at Heathrow Airport. Suspicions were raised as they had identical packaging and labelling, except for the brand name, and the same batch code on the entire consignment. Identical fake sanitiser products have been found on sale in Bexley by trading standards officers. A further 4,500 hand sanitisers with false labelling were seized at the airport, according to LTS.
Hillingdon and Hounslow Councils’ Trading Standards services provide product safety inspections at Heathrow Airport on behalf of the UK Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS).
As well as stopping dodgy imports, trading standards are increasingly concerned about unsafe UK-made hand sanitisers being sold that fail to meet safety standards. Tower Hamlets trading standards have for example recently found UK-made hand sanitiser on sale online from a local shop that contains the banned substance Triclosan.
Ealing Council’s Trading Standards team recently detained 454,500 face masks described as “anti-virus”, where fake safety certification was supplied. Ealing also seized 60,000 face masks that failed to have the necessary importers details, batch, declaration of conformity or test certificates available to demonstrate compliance. The borough also seized 3,390 hand sanitisers, which lacked any legally required information regarding ingredients, batch, traceability, warnings or instructions.
London Trading Standards Operations Director, Stephen Knight, said: ‘Trading standards teams at Heathrow Airport and around London play an important role in protecting consumers from unscrupulous businesses seeking to bypass EU and UK safety laws. There has been a surge in firms attempting to import sub-standard face masks, many with false labelling or faked safety certificates. Trading standards teams are being pragmatic in seeking to let these important goods through, once misleading labelling is removed, and the necessary safety compliance can be shown. However, we will continue to protect consumers from unsafe goods.’
Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council and London Councils’ Executive Member for Health & Care, said: ‘Boroughs’ trading standards teams are on the frontline of London’s clampdown on sub-standard products that are supposed to help protect people from coronavirus.
‘As these results show, dishonest businesses are seeking to exploit Covid-19 pressures by bringing in significant quantities of unsafe equipment – but we’re not standing for it.
‘The checks carried out by trading standards officers at Heathrow and by local teams across the capital are crucial for identifying fake and sub-standard products, upholding the law, and keeping people safe.’
To report concerns about fake products or false claims made about products, contact Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline on 0808 223 1133 or via their chat service online which you can access here.
Alternatively, consumer crimes can be reported online using the LTS reporting tool by clicking here.