Little green army men | Source: Pexels

It’s been said before, and whether you call them bootlegs, knockoffs, or any other name, counterfeit toys are big business, and they continue infiltrating major online marketplaces.

In a year where digital shopping has been skyrocketing thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Toy Association issued a warning to parents and gift-givers this fall ahead of the holiday shopping season. Now, the Association released Taking Fake Toys Offline: A 2020 Focus on Proactive Measures to Reduce Counterfeits and Unsafe Toys Sold on Online Marketplaces, an update to last year’s inaugural white paper detailing the bootleg boom.

While legitimate, safe toys still outnumber the fakes, The Toy Association points toward several factors causing the increase in counterfeit goods, including:

  • Inadequate vetting by marketplaces of sellers and products sold online;
  • A burden of enforcement that is disproportionately placed on the IP rights holders (the brand owners);
  • Inadequate transparency of seller information, resulting in a lack of information available to consumers making purchasing decisions;
  • Consumers who are largely unaware of the scope of the problem and unknowingly purchase these products thinking they are held to the same standards as toys sold by legitimate companies;
  • and Counterfeiters that have become adept at blending in on the sites, making it increasingly difficult to differentiate between compliant and non-compliant products.

“The Toy Association and our member companies have been continually advocating for the removal of illicit counterfeit toys and play products from online marketplaces,” says Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of The Toy Association. “Our concerted actions and issues identified have contributed to some important progress, including the introduction of legislation placing clear requirements on marketplaces and sellers; the publication of a Department of Homeland Security Report echoing many of our proposed solutions; and better cooperation, communication, and collaboration with major online marketplaces.”

This year’s update to the report points to some new and emerging trends related to the issue, including the proliferation of social media marketplaces and targeted adds promoting bootleg products, as well as a boom for fake reviews, fake storefronts, and the overall consumer shift to digital shopping.

The entire report is available here.

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.