Warning to shoppers to avoid fake and potentially dangerous toys
Last-minute Christmas shoppers have been warned to avoid fake and potentially dangerous toys as rogue traders exploit demand for sold-out "must-have" gifts.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is also urging shoppers to be wary of turning to "suspect" online sellers offering next-day delivery on toys that are out of stock elsewhere, warning that they may not actually exist.
Councils have seized thousands of counterfeit and dangerous toys in the run-up to Christmas, including many which contained parts that posed a choking hazard to children, the LGA said.
One council alone had seized 86% of all products tested - a total of 88,000 items including toys - on arrival at ports over a three-month period.
The LGA said criminals were cashing in on a surge in demand which had seen some must-have toys such as Fingerlings and Hatchimals being offered for sale online at more than six times their recommended retail price.
It is urging shoppers to look for the CE safety mark on toys or their packaging, and is calling for this to be clearly included in the information on websites selling toys.
Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "Christmas can be a great time for bargains but it can also be a magnet for dodgy traders and criminals who won't think twice about making easy money from selling dangerous toys to unsuspecting shoppers.
"Faulty electrical toys can lead to fires or electrocution, inferior materials can break and cause injuries, while toxic levels of ingredients can cause burns, illness and even prove fatal.
"As well as looking out for grammar and spelling errors on packaging - tell-tale signs of counterfeit goods - people need to resist cheap offers that look too good to be true, particularly if certain toys are sold out in well-known retailers, as this could be a sign that they are fake, unsafe and poor quality or simply don't exist.
"Selling illegal, fake toys is a crime and ruins the reputation of genuine traders, harms legitimate businesses, costs the economy millions in lost tax revenue and often funds organised criminal gangs."