Consumer watch: Third of “gold” jewellery sold online could be fake

A third of “gold” jewellery sold online in the UK is suspected to be fake, warns the British Hallmarking Council

  • Online consumers of gold jewellery are being duped by internet traders, according to new research conducted by WRi Group and Incopro on behalf of the British Hallmarking Council
  • British Hallmarking Council and Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office call on the Government and internet giants to protect UK consumers by enforcing online trade

MONDAY, 4TH NOVEMBER: New research conducted by WRi Group in partnership with Incopro on behalf of the British Hallmarking Council shows that a third of “gold” jewellery being sold online is suspected to be unhallmarked and therefore may be fake, raising concerns that UK consumers are being duped by internet traders.

https://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/company/today/press/bhc/

The research which took the form of a 10-day internet sweep revealed that 36% (6,377 from a total of 17,657) of “gold” jewellery listings on sites such as Amazon and Preloved had not been advertised as hallmarked. Of those listings, 24% (4,278) were suspected as fake and therefore being sold illegally. eBay sellers alone accounted for over half (56%) of all suspect items of “gold” jewellery being sold online, where there was no mention of a hallmark, between 21 March and 1 April 2019.

Clear links were also found to physical retail premises where some of the items available on-line were being sold in large numbers.

Noel Hunter, Chairman of the British Hallmarking Council, says: “The UK Hallmarking Act (1973) was put in place to protect consumers and retail jewellers from counterfeits, but the application of the legislation to online trading activity remains untested. And we have seen little appetite from the internet giants to step up enforcement or adequately protect consumers.

“Our internet sweep highlights just a fraction of the infringements made by online sellers of ‘precious metal jewellery’ in the UK today. A duty of enforcement currently rests with local Trading Standards departments, who have suffered a 50% cut in their resources over the last five years. Adequate powers are necessary to deal with internet trade.”

Gareth Mogg, Director at WRi Group said: ‘Our joint research with Incopro for this campaign provides a snapshot of the scale of the problem facing legitimate business and consumers from the trade in ‘fake’ gold jewellery. The use of on-line platforms to distribute these items is an on-going challenge for the law enforcement community and the only way to mitigate the threat is by industry, law enforcement, in this case Trading Standards, and the public to work in partnership to protect both the local and wider UK economy.

Piers Barclay, Chief Strategy Officer at Incopro, added: ‘Many online marketplaces have publicised the programmes they have put in place to protect consumers from fake goods and counterfeits, but these often seem more like paying lip service to the issue than a genuine effort to stop the problem. The evidence collected here clearly demonstrates how prevalent the issue is and how more needs to be done to ensure that laws that apply offline are enforced online as well.’

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ABOUT THE RESEARCH

The online insight report was conducted by WRi Group in partnership with Incopro – both brand protection agencies – on behalf of the British Hallmarking Council and the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office. Insights were drawn from online monitoring of UK marketplaces (Amazon, Depop, eBay, Freeadsd, Fruugo, Gumtree, PostAdsUK and Preloved) and social media (Facebook and Instagram) for 10 days from 21/03/2019 to 01/04/2019. The research ONLY looked at items sold as “gold”. It did not include other precious metal items.

The research looked at:

  1. how many items are sold as “gold” without a hallmark being referenced in the title or the text of a listing or post. This excluded gold –plated, rolled, golden, coated, bonded, vintage; items pre-1950. And focused on products; bracelet, chain, necklace, ring.
  2. How many “gold” items are sold as bearing a UK hallmark, but where a price would indicate that this is too low.
  3. How many items are sold as bearing a hallmark accepted in the UK.

The research found:

  • 11,280 listings for products where a hallmark had been detected
  • 6,377 listings for products where a hallmark had not been detected
  • 135 listings for products being sold with a non-UK Hallmark detected
  • 4,278 suspected infringing items for sale
  • 2,893 suspected infringing listings on the top UK platforms for less than 50% RRP
  • **£1,143,383 potential infringer revenue from suspicious listings. This was calculated by applying the value of scrap gold to the 6,377 listings for products where a hallmark had not been detected and the 135 listings for products being sold with a non-UK Hallmark detected.
  • And that sellers on eBay accounted for over half (56%) of all gold jewellery being sold, with no mention of a hallmark in the listing

The report also looked at suspiciously priced hallmarked items – those at 50% or less of RRP – and found possible counterfeiting activities of several types of jewellery:


 

WHAT IS A HALLMARK?

Official hallmarking is the trusted way to guarantee that you are getting the correct purity of precious metals in your jewellery. In the UK, all jewellery that is sold as having been made with gold, silver, platinum or palladium, must be hallmarked according to the Hallmarking Act 1973. *The hallmarking law exempts precious metal objects that weigh under a certain number of grams. This could mean small jewellery items like stud earrings or pendants. Jewellery does not have to be hallmarked if it weighs under:

  • 1 gram for gold
  • 5 gram for platinum & palladium
  • 78 grams for silver

Only jewellery that carries an officially registered British or international hallmark can be sold in the UK. A hallmark will usually include the Assay Office town mark, together with 2-4 additional marks, such as a date letter, a metal standard symbol or a duty stamp. There are hundreds of registered hallmark elements.

HALLMARKING KEYS

ASSAY OFFICE TOWN MARKS

 

ABOUT THE BRITISH HALLMARKING COUNCIL

The BHC supervises the hallmarking activities of assay offices to ensure there is adequate provision of hallmarking in the UK. The BHC is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The BHC aims to protect consumers by:

  • Ensuring the adequacy of hallmarking facilities in the UK
  • Supervising the working of UK assay offices and their sub-offices, including offshore sub-offices
  • Applying and keeping under review the system for applications for and monitoring of sub-offices
  • Overseeing proportionate, risk-based regulations
  • Overseeing relationships with and between assay offices, trade, consumers, trading standards and government concerning the market in precious metals.

 

THE GOLDSMITHS’ COMPANY ASSAY OFFICE

The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office is a part of the Goldsmiths’ Company which was founded to regulate the craft and trade of the goldsmith and received its first Royal Charter in 1327. One of the twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London, the Goldsmiths’ Company has been responsible since 1300 for testing the quality of gold, silver and, from 1975, platinum articles. 

The word hallmark originates from the fifteenth century when London craftsmen were first required to bring their artefacts to Goldsmiths’ Hall for assaying and marking. Seven hundred years later the leopard’s head, the symbol of the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, remains the premier hallmark in the country and is recognised internationally as a stamp of approval from the renowned home of hallmarking.

Today, the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office continues the tradition of guaranteeing the level of precious metal content in line with UK law. In addition, the Assay Office offers expert knowledge to authorities including Trading Standards and the police helping them to enforce the Hallmarking Act 1973.

Based at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London, GCAO also operates through two other locations for the convenience of the client – in the centre of London’s Hatton Garden, to benefit those members of the trade based there, and at Heathrow, providing a quick and cost-effective turnaround on assaying imported goods.  

The other Assay Offices in the UK are in Birmingham, Edinburgh and Sheffield.

ABOUT WRI Groupwww.wri-group.com

WRi delivers premium Brand Protection, Investigation, Intelligence Management, Training and Consultancy services to private and public sector agencies. Established in 2011 by MD and retired Police Officer Graham Mogg, WRi has built up a reputation as a company that delivers results using a range of services aimed at reducing the threat to businesses from Intellectual Property (IP) crime and other illegal activities.

WRi has a diverse workforce comprising of former police officers, trading standards officers and brand protection professionals who work with key public sector partners.

ABOUT INCOPRO – www.incoproip.com

Incopro uses data driven intelligence to remove brand misuse online. Over 650 brands use Incopro to protect their consumers and revenues. Customers include Mondelez, Dr. Martens, Reckitt Benckiser, Harley Davidson, Cath Kidston, Superdry, New Era, Brother, Adobe, ghd and Ted Baker.  

Incopro employs over 200 people, who use multiple language skills, data science and machine learning to gather and act upon scalable intelligence data online. Incopro was founded in London in 2012 by CEO and IP lawyer Simon Baggs, & current CTO and system architect Bret Boivin. In May 2018, Highland Europe invested $21m to push Incopro’s expansion into mainland Europe, China and America.

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