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Christmas shopping bargain hunters are being warned to watch out for festive fakes that could be dangerous by West Sussex County Council Trading Standards Service.
It is also reminding consumers of their rights when shopping online or over the phone.
Graeme MacPherson, Head of Trading Standards said:
"In the lead up to Christmas, counterfeit products become more widespread in markets, shops and on the internet. They may seem like a bargain - but the goods will be of inferior quality and in some cases even dangerous.
"Fake well known brands of wine and spirits and cigarettes, for example, often contain substances that can cause you immediate and real harm. The advice from Trading Standards is quite straightforward: Buy from reputable sources.
"Shopkeepers can also play their part by not buying stock from the back of vans or from 'cold callers' - stick to your regular suppliers," said Graeme.
If you have any concerns about possible counterfeit items please report to Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.
Pete Bradbury, County Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection, said:
"Christmas can be an expensive time of the year for many families and we all like a bargain. But don't be tempted by offers that appear to good to be true - they are bound to cost you more."
Online and telephone shopping
-Consumers have the right to return most items - unless they're made-to-measure or personalised when shopping online or over the phone.
"You do not have to give a reason for cancellation but you must cancel within seven days of receiving the goods," said Graeme.
-The trader must refund the cost of the goods and the cost of delivery.
"You must return the goods and you may be liable for the cost of returning the item - check the terms and conditions."
-Goods ordered online or by telephone must be delivered within the time period specified by the seller.
"Where no time period is specified, traders are allowed 30 days from the date of the contract to delivery. So make sure you leave enough time to avoid disappointment."
-Consumers can protect their rights by ensuring the website is legitimate.
"Make sure it includes an address and if there is a telephone number call it and make sure there is someone at the other end," said Graeme.
"Look for the Terms and Conditions - and read them! Look for websites that have a secure way of paying - these show a padlock when you are filling in the payment details."
Consumers and small businesses can help protect themselves at Christmas with the Rough Guide to Online Safety, which was recently launched by the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers and the Association of Chief Police Officers.
"It is a handbook that provides computer users and small businesses with free, independent, user-friendly advice that will allow them to use the internet confidently, safely and securely.
"Our Trading Standards Service urges urge people to download it before they start their online Christmas shopping. The Guide will help you to stay smart on the latest security threats and protect yourself."
You can download the Rough Guide to Online Safety at www.getsafeonline.org and search Rough Guide to Online Safety.
For information and advice on how to guard against online fraud and other internet crime, visit the Get Safe Online website at www.getsafeonline.org. To report online fraud, please contact Action Fraud www.actionfraud.org.uk.