Talk of the Playground: What do parents think of fake toys?

As part of our Fight The Fakes campaign, ToyNews teamed up with youth and family research agency Dubit to ask mums and dads for their opinions on counterfeit toys, using its award-winning Clickroom online focus group tool
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None of our group said they’d bought counterfeit toys for their children, although Helen said: “I have a feeling my husband just has - Sonic characters from China on Ebay.” (It later turned out they were cheap but genuine). 

And Rebecca, mother of a two-year-old, contributed: “My Dad's wife [based in Cambodia] sent us some obviously fake 'Disney' clothes but my husband said they made our daughter look like a baby prostitute so she never wore them.”

Two group members had won fake toys at fairs, with one being rejected by the child as a fake Mario. Shona, mother of two boys (aged four years and two months) added: “My son's Hulk from the fair looked like Simon Cowell but he still loves it.”

Age clearly played a part, with children over ten being able to spot a fake a mile off, as Helen said: “My niece and nephew are 10 and 13 and they wouldn't have a fake toy or any fake item. Not good for the street cred.”

Dubit's Clickroom tool allows companies to hold virtual online focus groups with a specific audience (click here or the image above for a closer look)

Visit the Clickroom website here


A common concern among the group is the inability to spot a fake. While dodgy-looking Hulk and Mickey Mouse toys were easy to spot, most parents say they trust the kite mark as a seal of authenticity. This lack of certainty affects the parent’s willingness to complain.

Hannah said: “It depends where it’s from, and if I was 100 per cent certain. We wouldn't want to be embarrassed.”

When asked if she complains to the seller in this situation, Rebecca offered: “Yes, as they could be dangerous.” Helen added: “I would too, as I wouldn't think I was getting value for money otherwise.” 

None of our group expressed a concern about the effect counterfeiting has on the industry or the economy. Clearly, for parents, safety is paramount.

The consensus between our panel was that they would always complain if they found out they’d been sold fake toys by a shop, but they wouldn’t do so if they were bought from a market stall. 

“You'd expect knock-offs on a market stall, but not in a shop,” commented Rebecca.

Although two parents say they’d complain to Trading Standards, the rest claimed they would tackle the store manager. While stores present a figure of authority to complain to, the majority of counterfeit toys seen by our group were found at fairs, markets and online.

Despite the majority of our group freely buying counterfeit products abroad, fake toys are a major concern for them.

However, that concern was focused on their child’s safety and not the moral or economic issues, many even expect to find fakes online and on market stalls.


The majority of our parents told us their favourite shopping destinations are the High Street and supermarkets, combined with online destinations such as eBay and Amazon.

Father of one, Jim, added charity shops and car boot sales to his list of shopping destination.

Although our virtual group frequently uses eBay, many expressed a concern regarding quality. These included Hannah, mother of a four year old son, who said: “I’m worried about [a product’s] condition mainly, and I'd rather be able to see what they look like and, frankly, who's selling them.” 

We asked certain parents why they don’t shop on eBay.

“I guess I just don't want to take chances where my loved one is concerned. I've heard some awful stories,” explained Sam, mum to a baby girl. 

Sharon added: “On eBay you just don't know if [toys are] genuine or if they're a cheap imitation. Everyone looks to eBay to get a bargain.”

Most of the parents concur that checking seller feedback is essential when purchasing toys in online auctions.

And all ten parents stated their concern for safety, while Sam said another big concern is whether they have space for more toys – a sentiment echoed by others in the room.


With a couple of exceptions every parent in our group admitted to having purchased counterfeit goods, although not always on purpose.

“Handbag, sunnies, DVDs… gosh that sounds awful; it’s not a frequent occurrence”, said Rachel, a mother of a six and three year old. 

Helen, mum of kids aged two and four, added: “It's all part and parcel of being on holiday. It never seems that bad on holiday.”

When asked why, Hannah said: “I was young, that's my excuse.”

Being abroad clearly help our sample feel more at ease about buying counterfeit goods. A few of our group expressed worry that counterfeit products in the UK are linked to organised crime, although dangers related to faulty products is their chief concern.


We asked five mothers about what they – and their children – think about fake toys in general.

“If it's bright and got a face on it, she'll cuddle it – whether it burns her skin or not.”

“[My son] said the eyes were wrong and he questioned if it was the real Mario. The toy’s face did have an odd expression.”

“You kind of half expect it to be a fake on a market stall, plus you don't know who they are. You would expect a shop or chain to be more responsible.”

“I wouldn't want to buy anything I thought was unsafe.”

About the author

Dubit is a specialist youth research agency and digital development studio. By utilising a deep understanding of young people’s motivations and behaviours, Dubit works with brand owners worldwide to create digital experiences that children love.

Check out Dubit's Clickroom tool here.

Phone: 0113 394 7920

Click here for more information about ToyNews' Fight the Fakes campaign, find out what parents think of fake toys or read about the effects counterfeit toys are having on the industry.

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