- by theguardian
- 21 Sep 2023
Skin-whitening lotions containing banned ingredients and potent acne creams that should only be supplied with a prescription were also being openly advertised last week.
But analysis suggests the rules are not being effectively enforced, with illicit beauty products routinely being promoted to users via their content feeds and search results.
Health and consumer experts say the products are unlikely to have undergone safety testing in line with UK standards and contain unknown, potentially toxic ingredients.
In 2021, a report for the Intellectual Property Office found that the role of influencers was key to affecting consumer purchases of counterfeit products. Of 1,000 women aged 16 to 60 who were surveyed, 13% said they had been prompted by social media endorsements to buy counterfeit products.
In addition to the fake products, prescription-only gels containing tretinoin, which is used for the treatment of acne, were available to buy through TikTok Shop last week. Tretinoin can lead to interactions with other medications and cause foetal abnormalities if taken while pregnant so must be used with medical supervision.
TikTok said it took intellectual property infringement and the illicit sale of medical products seriously, and that those breaking the rules could be banned from the platform. It said it had removed hundreds of products and merchants from TikTok Shop so far this year, including around 50 listings flagged by the Observer. In 2022, it launched an Intellectual Property Protection Centre, a tool it said would help brands identify product listings that breach their IP.
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