What parents think of fake toys

Peter Robinson

At the beginning of the year we teamed up with Toy News to investigate the counterfeit toy industry. Fake toys are a danger not just to children but they also have a huge impact on the entire toy industry, did you know up to one million Rubix Cubes are faked every year!

Forming part of the Fight the Fakes campaign we used our award-winning Clickroom focus group software to interview a group of parents on their attitude to, and experience of, fake toys.


The majority of our parents told us that their favourite shopping destinations are the High Street and supermarkets, combined with online destinations such as Ebay and Amazon. Father of one, Jim, added his approval to charity shops and car boot sales.

Although Ebay was frequently used by our virtual group many expressed a concern regarding quality, such as Hannah, mother of a four-year-old son, who said: “I’m worried about condition mainly, and I’d rather be able to see what they look like and, frankly, who’s selling them.” When asked why they wouldn’t shop on Ebay, Sam, who’s a mother of a one-year-old girl said: “I guess I just don’t want to take chances where my loved one is concerned. I’ve heard some awful stories.” Most of our parents concurred that checking seller feedback is essential when purchasing toys in online auctions.

All the parents stated their concern for safety with Sam saying a big concern of hers is whether they have space for more toys, a sentiment echoed by others in the room.

Counterfeit Goods

With a couple of exceptions every parent in our group admitted to having purchased counterfeit goods, although not always on purpose, “handbag, sunnies, DVDs, gosh that sounds awful, not a frequent occurrence”, said Rachel, mother of a six and three-year-old. With Helen, mother of a two-year-old and four-year-old, adding: “It’s all part and parcel of being on holiday. It never seems that bad on holiday!”When asked why, Hannah answered: “Kind of a holiday-feel, like no one will care – I was young, that’s my excuse.” Being abroad clearly helped our sample feel more at ease about buying counterfeit goods, with doing it at home proving far less prevalent. A few of our group expressed worry that counterfeit products in the UK are linked to organised crime, although dangers related to faulty products is their chief concern.


None of our group said they’d bought counterfeit toys for their children, although Helen said: “I have a feeling my husband just has – Sonic characters from China on Ebay.” (It later turned out they were cheap but genuine) and Rebecca, mother of a two-year-old, contributed: “My Dad’s wife [based in Cambodia] sent us some obviously fake ‘Disney’ clothes but my husband said they made our daughter look like a baby prostitute so she never wore them.”

Two group members had won fake toys at fairs, with one being rejected by the child as a fake Mario. Shona, mother of two boys (aged four years and two months) added: “My son’s Hulk from the fair looked like Simon Cowell but he still loves it.”

Age clearly played a part, with children over ten being able to spot a fake a mile off, as Helen said: “My niece and nephew are 10 and 13 and they wouldn’t have a fake toy or any fake item. Not good for the street cred’!”

How do you complain?

A common concern among the group was the inability to spot a fake. While dodgy looking Hulks and Mickey Mousses were easy to spot, most parents said they trust the kite mark as a seal of authenticity. This lack of certainty affected the parent’s willingness to complain, with Hannah’s opinion that it “depends where from, and if I was 100 per cent certain – wouldn’t want to be embarrassed” being one that many agreed with.

When asked if they would complain, Rebecca said: “Yes, as they could be dangerous”, with Helen adding: “I think I would. I wouldn’t think I was getting value for money otherwise.” None of our group expressed a concern about the affect of counterfeiting on the industry or the economy. Clearly, for parents safety is paramount.

The consensus between our panel was that they would always complain if they found out they’d been sold fake toys by a shop, but they wouldn’t do so if they were bought from a market stall, with Rebecca saying: “You’d expect knock offs on a market stall, but not in a shop. You’d feel ripped off in a shop.”

Although two parents said they’d complain to Trading Standards the rest of the group pin-pointed the store manager as the focus of their outrage. While stores do present a figure of authority to complain to, the majority of counterfeit toys seen by our group were found at fairs, markets and online.

Despite the majority of our group freely buying counterfeit products abroad, fake toys were a major concern for them. However, that concern was focused on their child’s safety and not the moral or economic issues surrounding the debate, many even expect to find fakes online and on market stalls.

Five Favourite Quotes

Sharon: “You just don’t know if they’re genuine or if they’re a cheap imitation, everyone looks to Ebay to get a bargain.”

Rachel: “He said the eyes were wrong (he did have an odd expression) he questioned if it was the real Mario.”

Helen: “You kind of half expect it to be a fake on a market stall, plus you don’t know who they are. You would expect a shop or chain to be more responsible.”

Kirsten: “I wouldn’t want to buy anything I thought was unsafe – a t-shirt in Thailand isn’t going to hurt anyone (except the sweat shop aspect!)”

Rebecca: “If it’s bright and got a face on it, she’ll cuddle it whether it burns her skin or not!”

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