Call for crackdown on ‘copycat goods’

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A YORKSHIRE entrepreneur has called for tougher Government action to stop unscrupulous foreign firms who are ripping off UK businesses.

Jason Mace, the managing director of Gala Tent, the Rotherham-based manufacturer of marquees, gazebos and accessories, believes the authorities must act to stem the tide of inferior “copycat goods” that are marketed by Far Eastern companies to British consumers.

Mr Mace said he has experience of Far Eastern companies setting up websites and online shops that imitate credible companies such as Gala Tent, undercutting prices and letting consumers believe they will receive quality products.

A Gala Tent spokesman said: “When the goods arrive, they are found to be of inferior quality, but there is usually no return address or way of seeking a refund.”

Mr Mace said that the online shops attract “constantly bad feedback from unhappy customers and often have no helpline for customers to call, just a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page.

“Once they have attracted lots of criticism, they simply shut the site down and set up a new shop under a different name.”

Mr Mace added: “The UK Government and the EU needs to get behind protecting the business of authentic British manufacturers who have invested in product development and innovation to bring consumers the best products.

“There needs to be greater legislation to prevent ‘fake goods’ companies piggy backing off the hard work and investment of British manufacturers, a bit like the laws that have been brought in to protect recording artists from being ripped off.

“The simplest and most effective way to stop this would be to put a tax on any product sold in the UK by a Far Eastern company, this would make it less attractive to buyers and reduce the number of British people wasting their money on inferior goods.”

A spokesman for Gala Tent said the company had experienced problems in the past with Far Eastern companies attempting to sell their products in the UK and using the company’s trademark illegally to pass off inferior products as branded goods.

Mr Mace added: “If a product, such as a marquee or gazebo is significantly cheaper, then there is usually a reason for this. It’s a fake brand and will be inferior in quality and consumers should avoid these at all costs.”

Founded in 1999, Gala Tent sells more than 10,000 tents and marquees each year, along with around 90,000 event accessories and furniture products in the UK. In the UK, Gala Tent is a supplier for organisations including the military, the NHS, the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service, South Yorkshire Police Service, St John’s Ambulance and AA.

Peter Holmes, the Yorkshire regional chairman of the Institute of Directors, said yesterday that there were many honest online traders, but far too many rogues were still going unchecked.

An Intellectual Property Office spokesperson said last night: “The Government is committed to stamping out intellectual property crime.

“The IPO, along with the National Crime Agency, UK Border Force and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, are all working tirelessly to tackle the threat of fake goods and arrest those who are flouting the law.

“If anyone has any information or suspects they might have bought counterfeit goods, then they should contact Citizens Advice or Crimestoppers who can then investigate.”