Royal Mail Says Will Keep Fining Customers Over Counterfeit Stamp Issue

The UK’s Royal Mail postal service is issuing fines to stamp users, and a media investigation found that the market was flooded with counterfeits believed to be coming from China. Royal Mail imposes a £5 fine (just over $6) on users of fake stamps, but Ministers say this is unfair because consumers have no way of knowing they are using counterfeits.

Post Office Minister Paul Scully called for an investigation, while influential conservative newspaper the Daily Mail urged Royal Mail to stop issuing fines to innocent people. Member of Parliament Sarah Olney added her voice, calling the situation “ridiculous” and demanding answers from the Chinese Embassy.

The Daily Mail states that hundreds of outraged people contacted the paper claiming they had bought their stamps at legitimate stores, only to discover later they were fake. Under current British law, shops do not need to buy their stamps directly from the Royal Mail and can purchase them online, which analysts say has facilitated a counterfeit market.

On April 10, the Telegraph reported the result of its investigation into the issue. Its reporters found four online Chinese suppliers willing to print up to a million illegitimate stamps at a cost of about 5 cents each. These are offered for sale on Amazon, eBay, and a website that mimics the authorized Royal Mail site. An official from Royal Mail admitted to the Telegraph that he could not see the difference between counterfeit and genuine stamps.

British security experts say the matter is serious and a form of “economic warfare” carried out with the “tacit approval” of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Royal Mail has issued a public warning, alerting users about how to spot fakes. It encourages people to buy directly from Royal Mail and warns that stamps that cost less than the market price are likely to be counterfeited. They are recognizable from their slight color variations, and the accompanying barcodes are “flat” rather than slightly raised, it added.