The HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) released a statement on Friday reporting that counterfeit consoles and power adapters are being sold online from Asia-based websites, fooling customers into thinking they are getting the supposed gaming units cheaper than retail outlets. The HMRC has already seized hundreds of the counterfeit devices and discovered that they are supplied with "potentially dangerous power adapters." Most of what they found was fake versions of the Nintendo DS and DS Lite, claiming to be "genuine Nintendo products," selling for almost half the original cost.
And while it’s easy to slip in a "save a few bucks" frame of mind during the holiday season, often when deals are too good to be true, then they probably are. HMRC’s Head of Intellectual Property rights Pamela Rogers says that consumers should be vigilant, to buy from a respected, well-known website and to check all the facts before purchasing a product, especially from sites located overseas.
"At best, these consoles would have led to disappointment on Christmas morning; at worst, they could have caused serious harm or injury," she said in a press release. "Counterfeit goods also cause considerable damage the UK economy by undermining genuine UK retailers and small businesses who are honest and abide by the rules."
Mike Rawlinson, managing director for the trade body of the UK game’s industry ELSPA (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association), agrees, saying that more needs to be done to end the damaging counterfeit games market, as fake goods not only defrauds tax payers, but puts the children at risk. "This is an issue that affects all retail businesses, particularly at Christmas, and more needs to be done to work together to mitigate the risks posed by fake goods. We are also continuing to work very closely with Trading Standards Officers on this important safety issue and we also want to thank them for their diligence."
While Rawlinson thanked the HMRC for alerting all ports for incoming counterfeit goods, Nintendo verified that the consoles in question were in fact fake DS and DS Lite consoles. Nintendo also said that the power adapters supplied with the fake units were potentially dangerous since they were not electronically tested to meet strict UK safety standards.
Recently consumers slammed Nintendo for the company’s strict policy regarding the Wii Speak microphone. Originally, Nintendo announced that only one activation was allowed for the device, leaving it utterly useless in the used-games market or if consumers lost the activation code after buying a new console. But even though the company caved in and said it would provide additional activation codes if needed, game piracy, the used-games market and counterfeit hardware fueled the company’s original decision.
This holiday season, it would be wise to steer away from "killer deals" online or schemes that offer free consoles after completing numerous surveys. While many respectable websites my be legit on their holiday discounts, the internet is also littered with scam artists intent on persuading un-educated consumers into shelling out money for products that may eventually cost more than the original product, perhaps even cost lives.