A Salford toy shop owner has been convicted for the second time of putting children in danger through selling counterfeit and unsafe toys.
More than 3,000 counterfeit and dangerous toys were seized from NewLine Imports Ltd, Rugby Street, Salford in 2019 and 2020.
Mr Sarabjot Singh and his former company Best Line Imports were prosecuted in 2014 for similar offences when trading standards officers seized over 1000 children’s toys, some of which posed a choking hazard.
Appearing at Manchester and Salford magistrates court on Monday 21 March, 2022 Mr Singh, formerly the director of NewLine, pleaded guilty for himself and on behalf of NewLine the company, to 19 offences of possessing counterfeit toys contrary to the Trade Marks Act 1994.
The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,160. Mr Singh received a Community Order for 24 months with 280 hours unpaid work and a rehabilitation activity requirement of 10 hours. He was disqualified from being a director for three years and was also ordered to pay costs of £6,160. A forfeiture order was also made for all the seized goods.
The court was told that NewLine Imports Ltd brings in up to 15 containers of toys a year worth £800,000 to £900,000 and has its own trademarks, so should be familiar with the law on counterfeit goods.
Trading standards officers have provided extensive advice on safety rules and the law and Mr Singh had previously been cautioned and then convicted of offences under the Consumer Protection Act and Trade Marks Act in 2014 relating to toys sold by his previous company.
Despite this adequate safety and legal checks were not in place with the new company relying solely on test reports from China and not carrying out any testing to confirm those reports match the goods supplied.
Officers from Salford City Council’s trading standards team and Greater Manchester Police visited the premises on Friday 30 October 2019 as part of a routine inspection. The shop mainly sells toys and suspected counterfeit items were found on the shop floor and in an upstairs storeroom in boxes. These were seized from the premises.
The items included around 600 Marvel Avengers toys, and over 600 L.O.L Surprise dolls which are made by MGA Entertainment, Inc. In total 3,387 items were removed.
Brand representatives for LOL Surprise, My Little Pony, Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, Fortnite, Avengers, Superman and Disney confirmed the items seized from the shop were counterfeit and breached trademark, copyright and design laws.
Some toys also failed safety testing because they contained high levels of phthalates, a group of chemicals used in plastic items which have been linked to health concerns. EU regulations set limits on the amounts which should be included in products and the items seized in Salford were found to be over those limits.
Trading standards officers returned to the shop on 28 April 2020 to advise Mr Singh of their findings and remove any remaining non-compliant products.
They found and removed more LOL Surprise dolls, Marvel Avengers toys and action figures. Thirty-four empty boxes of LOL Surprise dolls – the same as those seized earlier – were found upstairs at the shop.
Each box would have contained six individual toys, given the information on the packaging, so 204 toys possibly containing illegal levels of phthalates remain unaccounted for.
Mr Singh was interviewed under caution in September 2020, and said the company imported some items directly from China while others had been bought in the UK from a company recommended by his Chinese suppliers. No checks were made before items were purchased and later checks on the UK company found its details were false.
Mr Singh said he could provide test reports for the products but failed to produce any. He claimed he did not realise some of the seized items were trademarked and said he now plans to employ someone to monitor safety checks at the business.
Speaking after the case Councillor David Lancaster, lead member for environment and community safety said: “We will not hesitate to take action when businesses are flouting the law and putting people at risk.
“Anyone buying toys for children must take care where they shop and check items carefully. If the price is too good to be true, then the product could be counterfeit and it could be dangerous. When you suspect that a product may be counterfeit or unsafe, please don’t buy the item and report it to the council so we can investigate.”
Detective Chief Inspector Claire McGuire of GMP’s Organised Crime Coordination Unit, said: “Selling counterfeit items can have serious consequences. As was shown in this case, toys for young children were tested and were found to have excess levels of chemicals that may cause serious harm.
“The effective partnership work between our officers and Salford City Council, means that potentially harmful goods have been taken from our streets. I hope this serves as a warning to any businesses operating in a similar way, that it will not go unnoticed and our officers will continue to take enforcement action against those who put others at risk by selling counterfeit goods.
“I would also like to remind the public of the dangers of buying such items; what may seem like a cheaper deal can come at a cost.”