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CRACKDOWN ON CAR BOOT COUNTERFEITERS

21 August 2005

Over a million people are expected to flood to car boot sales next Bank Holiday weekend, in search of a bargain. Yet few will be aware that this most traditional of British past-times is increasingly being abused by organised criminal gangs determined to profit from the sale of fake and counterfeit goods - from CDs and DVDs, to football shirts, fake perfumes, and even children’s clothes and toys.

In response to this growing abuse John Whittingdale MP - Chair of the influential Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee - has today announced that, having been successful in the private member’s bill ballot, he is to use his slot to introduce a bill to reclaim car boot sales for innocent bargain hunters.

The trade in fake goods is estimated to be worth a staggering £9 billion per year, causing huge damage to the music and film industries and costing the Exchequer roughly £2 billion in lost tax revenue. This is the equivalent of the UK’s total planned investment in primary schools for the next year. Around a quarter of counterfeits are currently bought at markets and car boot sales.

The Occasional Sales Bill - which Mr Whittingdale describes as a “light touch and proportionate response” to an increasingly serious problem - will require market organisers to keep a register of the names, addresses and vehicle numbers of traders. This will provide vital intelligence for trading standards officers, who are aware of the scale of the problem, but often lack the information and resources they need to address it.

John Whittingdale says:

“Every weekend up and down the country, criminal gangs are infiltrating popular car boot sales and other markets. They are making a fortune from the sale of fake goods, of which many are poor quality and some are downright dangerous (with no rights of redress for consumers).

“My aim is to shut out the criminal gangs and fake goods, so that consumers can enjoy their favourite markets, confident that the goods they buy are safe, legitimate and work.”

Lavinia Carey, Chair of the Alliance Against Intellectual Property (IP) Theft, adds:

“I congratulate John Whittingdale for taking up this issue. There is growing evidence that organised crime has moved into counterfeiting in a big way, as a low risk - high profit way of making money and laundering funds. The National Criminal Intelligence Service and the Northern Ireland Organised Crime Task Force have recently raised their threat assessment of counterfeiting to the status of a ‘high priority’, having uncovered evidence linking it to Triads and even paramilitary groups.

“The public is being conned,” she concluded. “They would be absolutely horrified to discover who’s behind this trade.”

The bill, which enjoys cross-party backing, is set to receive its second reading on Friday 14th October, as soon as Parliament returns from its summer recess.

Its backers received a recent boost when research by the Alliance against IP Theft found 82 per cent support for such legislation among local authority council members and officials.

For information about joining the Alliance please contact
Susie Winter at susie@allianceagainstiptheft.co.uk
or on 020 7534 0595