Royal Mail accuses Border Force of failing to stop China from 'flooding UK with fake stamps'

11 April 2024, 23:48 | Updated: 11 April 2024, 23:55

Books of barcoded Royal Mail 1st class postage stamps depicting the head of Queen Elizabeth II
Books of barcoded Royal Mail 1st class postage stamps depicting the head of Queen Elizabeth II. Picture: Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Royal Mail has accused Border Force of failing to stop China from flooding the UK with fake stamps in an "act of economic warfare".

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A senior executive suggested not enough was being done to stop the import of forgeries, which can result in a £5 fine.

It comes after sources close to Royal Mail said fake Chinese stamps were behind a rise in complaints that stamps bought from legitimate outlets were being deemed fraudulent.

Four Chinese suppliers are offering to print up to one million counterfeit Royal Mail stamps a week, according to the Telegraph. The fake stamps are being sold for as little as 4p each before being sent to Britain.

Some small retailers are unknowingly buying fake stamps as they are allowed to purchase from wholesalers rather than direct from Royal Mail.

The forgeries have also been found on Amazon and eBay, as well as on scam websites imitating the Royal Mail site.

David Gold, director of external affairs and policy at Royal Mail, told the paper it is Border Force’s responsibility to stop counterfeits being brought in.

He said: "One of the things which is obvious is if these stamps are coming in from abroad, people’s obvious question will be 'shouldn’t Border Force just be stopping them?'

"[I would ask] what the government is doing to put pressure on law enforcement to stop these items coming into the country in the first place.”

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Mr Gold said barcoded stamps were introduced in 2022 due to Royal Mail losing £19m a year to counterfeits.

And now the postal service's security team are monitoring shops selling fraudulent stamps.

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Stamps bought directly from the Post Office are unaffected, because it gets all of its stamps direct from Royal Mail.

Alan Mendoza, of national security think tank the Henry Jackson Society, said: "It is inconceivable that a large-scale counterfeit operation like this could be occurring without the knowledge and therefore tacit approval of the Chinese Communist Party.

"It's an obvious form of economic warfare."

Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said: "It is key to prevent counterfeit stamps entering our supply chain in the UK.

UK stamps
UK stamps. Picture: Alamy

"The Royal Mail must do everything possible to prevent counterfeits entering our circulation and must establish where they are coming from and how they are entering our marketplace," he told the Daily Mail.

But a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in London slammed the claims as "absurd".

He told the Times: "It is totally ridiculous, absurd and ill-intentional. How could one imagine a sovereign country triggers war by bringing fake stamps?

"If this case really happened, (the) first thing to do is to have (a) thorough investigation over the internal supply chain, instead of pursuing the attention of (the) media."

Chinese leader Xi Jinping. China denies the accusation
Chinese leader Xi Jinping. China denies the accusation. Picture: Getty

It was reported last week that Royal Mail is looking into claims that people have been wrongly fined after being sent letters with new barcoded stamps that were deemed to be counterfeit.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: "We are working hard to remove counterfeit stamps from circulation.

"We regularly monitor online marketplaces to detect suspicious activity, such as sales of heavily discounted stamps and work closely with retailers and law enforcement agencies to identify those who produce counterfeit stamps.

"We work closely with a number of police forces across the country and in recent cases we have recovered stamps with a retail value of over £250,000."