Warning to traders selling copied DVDs to stop this illegal activity
West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service in partnership with West Yorkshire Police are slowly winning an ongoing battle to tackle traders selling illegally-copied films.
In the past 12 months, following up on complaints received from the general public and local businesses, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service has tackled seven Bradford-based DVD shops and one Leeds-based DVD shop over the illegal sale of copied DVDs. Further operations are planned in the near future.
On Wednesday night (26 March) officers from Trading Standards and West Yorkshire Police targeted a DVD shop in BD3 seizing copied films and a quantity of cash. Investigations continue.
Two cases have already gone through the court process. Mohammed Waheed, aged 21 of Bradford received a nine month prison sentence following his involvement in a DVD shop in BD7. Adrees Malik aged 45 of Bradford was sentenced to a 10 month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, after a number of test purchases and four separate seizures of counterfeit DVDs at his premises on Thornton Road in Bradford. A Proceeds of Crime Act investigation is underway.
Both these shops have since closed down. A seizure at another shop in May 2013 in BD7 is still ongoing; the shop has also closed down. A further two shops that Trading Standards had under observation also closed down shortly after these raids.
Another five shops have been visited this year in Bradford (including the premises last night). In some cases officers having to carry out repeat visits due to the persistent fraudulent trading activities of these premises. West Yorkshire Trading Standards are planning further visits to these persistent offenders and operations at more shops in the Bradford area that they have had complaints about.
An investigation into a shop in Leeds resulted in three raids last year; the shop appears to have closed down.
There are large profits to be made in the sale of copied DVDs. Customers of these illegal shops can buy the latest blockbuster films that are still on at the cinema, and not yet released on DVD, for as little as three discs for £5. The mark up per disc can be as much as 1800%, discs cost as little as 20 pence to produce but sell for on-average £2. In this economic climate, legitimate sellers of DVDs, DVD rental shops and local independent cinemas are finding times tough enough without the illegal operators undercutting them.
Investigations by West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service have found that some people behind these businesses are making large profits, have not declared any income to HMRC, and have been claiming benefits. The large profits keep the shops trading despite visits by Trading Standards and the Police, and knowing what they are doing is illegal. However, this persistent fraudulent behaviour only gives weight to the investigations, resulting in stiffer sentences by the courts.
The people behind these illegal businesses often employ young, local men/boys and family members to sell the counterfeit films. As seen in the case of Mohammed Waheed aged 21 who received a nine month prison sentence, simply being an employee or helping out at the shop can result in a hefty sentence, resulting in a criminal record.
The Courts take the matter very seriously. Only yesterday in Leeds Crown Court a Simon Seaton aged 26 of Leeds was sentenced to eight months in prison for operating an online subscriber group where subscribers would receive copied music albums and pornographic films sent to them on a monthly basis for a fee. A Proceeds of Crime investigation is underway.
David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said, “I would urge the people that are employed or help out selling copied films at these illegal shops to really think: Is it worth being involved? You could end up in prison with a criminal record. Proceeds of Crime investigations should serve as a warning to those people behind these businesses manufacturing and supplying counterfeit DVDs to stop this illegal activity.”
Councillor Bill Urry, of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said, “Officers from Trading Standards continue to tackle this escalating problem. I urge members of the public to think twice before buying counterfeit goods. If you support economic growth and local businesses who pay taxes and employ local people then please do not buy counterfeit goods.”
Inspector George Bardell from West Yorkshire Police said, “The production and sale of counterfeit goods is a crime. All crime has a detrimental effect on our community. We fully support the work of our partner West Yorkshire Trading Standards in their enforcement activity. I look forward to continuing this in the future.”