Thursday, March 27, 2014
A stark warning has been issued from Norfolk Trading Standards over buying designer goods from local Facebook groups.
The ‘buyer beware’ message comes after a woman from Rackheath was given a 12-month community order and ordered to pay £1,100 in costs at Norwich Magistrates Court yesterday after pleading guilty to selling goods bearing a false trademark online.
Diane Bland, 44, of Lonsdale Road, had more than 300 items worth £6,000 listed on a local Facebook group in Norfolk and on eBay, including counterfeit UGG boots, Pandora jewellery and a Paul’s Boutique handbag.
She was caught after trading standards officers made two test purchases after being alerted to the online group.
They bought a pair of UGG boots that mother-of-two Bland was selling for £36 and a Pandora bracelet for £10 and sent the items to the respective companies to see if they were genuine.
When the goods were found to be fake, Bland’s home was raided, with officers seizing 32 items and the computer used for her online sales.
Stephen Maunder, consumer engagement officer for Norfolk Trading Standards, said: “If you are thinking of buying items, particularly designer goods on these Facebook groups or other sites, then approach with caution. Do your homework - just think ‘is this going to be genuine?’ and ‘can I contact the seller if there is a problem?’.”
He added that if something looked to good to be true, it probably was.
“Consumers have fewer rights when they buy privately,” said Mr Maunder.
“It’s a case of buyer beware. The only rights you have are that the goods must be ‘as described’. But this can be difficult to prove.”
He added there had been a rise in people selling on local Facebook groups.
“Originally, a lot of it was through eBay but they tightened up, then it was Gumtree and they tightened up, so people have moved on again,” he said.
“There are no charges for selling on these Facebook groups and there are no controls. Anyone can set up a group and quite often, you don’t even know the real name of the person you are buying from.”
Mrs Bland, who said she had bought the items in Manchester, was in a “difficult financial situation” and her solicitor, Alistair Taunton said “all she did, like many others was place items for sale using the internet”.
The goods from her house will now be destroyed but the court ordered Trading Standards return her computer, which her solicitor said was “used by the family”.
Anyone wanting to report any goods for sale online or who needs help with buying from websites should contact the Citizens Advice Bureau Consumer Service hotline on 08454 040506.