UK flooded with 'fake' mobile phones

The UK is being flooded by thousands of unofficial or counterfeit mobile phones through online auctions, according to analysis of eBay.

Nokia was by far the most targeted company when it came to unofficial or fake phones, followed by LG and Samsung.

The analysis by Envisional concentrated on three of the most popular phones on the market at the moment, the Nokia N95, the LG Viewty, and the Samsung F700. It looked at the number of auctions taking place through over a seven day period.

It found that there were 2,250 sellers of the Nokia N95 with many offered as unlocked, showing that the auctions were of unofficially sold phones with the possibility of being fake.

Ten per cent of the sellers were offering goods into the UK which were not official, as they originated from the Hong Kong and US. These were also more likely to be counterfeit, the report claimed.

"It is vitally important that consumer awareness of counterfeit goods is raised. It can be very difficult for buyers to tell the difference between a fake and genuine product," said Elizabeth May, vice-president of the Authentics Foundation.

"However even when consumers are aware that an item is fake there is often an ambiguous relationship with counterfeiters an buyers are prepared to purchase a product as a good deal regardless of its origin."

The vast majority of Viewty and Samsung handsets were based in the UK with no individual sellers selling large number of products.

However all the manufacturers had problems with fake batteries. A large number of N95 batteries were on offer, with sellers dominated by a few individuals selling hundreds of items.

This showed that these products could be cheap generics which were poor quality, dangerous and with potential to damage the phone, the report said. The LG and Viewty battery auctions also carried the potential of being fake products.

"Too many consumers are unaware of the disreputable sources of counterfeit goods, particularly in the electronics space," said Jonathan Robinson, chief operating officer of NetNames, Envisional's sister company.

Robinson said that online auction sites now gave counterfeiter opportunities that were not available in the past, and that manufacturers needed to be aware and monitor the situation even if they decided not to act on the information.

He said: "If a consumer has a bad experience with a product with your branding on it, it will not necessarily occur to them that it is counterfeit."

"It will simply create a negative perception which can quickly spread across product reviews, blogs and other social media causing untold brand damage," he added.