ONE of York's top fashion stores sold fake T-shirts bought for less than £10 on eBay, a court heard.

Mark Bage, 39, a partner in nationally renowned Sarah Coggles, in Low Petergate, admitted selling three counterfeit "Bathing Ape" tops for between £39 and £49 to a Leeds couple. They were from a batch of 30 he had acquired for "around £8 each" from the internet auction site.

City of York Council Trading Standards officer Matt Boxall told Selby magistrates that Bathing Ape T-shirts, from Japan, are quite rare as the manufacturer only produces limited numbers. "The idea is that it's very unlikely you will bump into someone wearing the same T-shirt," Mr Boxall said.

The court was told that on April 29, 2005, Lindsey Grace, from Leeds, bought one of the tops costing £49 for her boyfriend William Ward as she knew he liked them. He was "so excited" on receiving the gift that he returned to the shop the next day from Leeds and bought two more "Bathing Ape" T-shirts at £39. Mr Boxall said the customer then left his mobile number with the shop and asked them to contact him if any more came into stock.

But when he gave one of the tops to a friend who already had one of the genuine brands, they compared them and discovered his T-shirt "didn't look quite right".

Mr Ward then contacted York trading standards.

Mr Boxall told the court that they immediately contacted the clothing manufacturer, Bape Co. Ltd, which confirmed the T shirts were fake copies and infringed their trademark.

He said Bage co-operated fully and told them he had bought a batch of 30 off eBay for around £8 each. Bage told officers they only had them on sale for a 24-hour period and immediately withdrew them from the shelves when "someone complained".

"Mr Bage said he had been naive to sell them," Mr Boxall said. "Mr Ward said he was not contacted by the shop or offered a refund when the shop had his number. The sale of fake goods is a serious matter."

Craig Sutcliffe, mitigating, told the court that Bage had been trading since 1974 and this was the first time he had been negatively involved with trading standards or been before a court. He said as soon as the T-shirts were reported as fake they were immediately removed from the shelves.

Mr Sutcliffe said his client's store had now stopped buying from individual sellers on eBay. He said there was the "honest belief" that the T-shirts were genuine.

Mr Sutcliffe said: "Mr Bage would say that this gentleman (Mr Ward) was offered a refund and an exchange."

A City of York Council spokesperson said: "We take matters involving the sale of counterfeit goods extremely seriously to protect the interests of consumers, and retailers selling genuine products. This case highlights the need for anyone buying goods from sources like eBay to be on their guard against counterfeit goods."

Bage pleaded guilty to three charges of selling counterfeit T-shirts. He was given a three-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £898 in court costs.

Trader welcomes outcome of the case

TODAY Mark Bage said Sarah Coggles took combating counterfeit goods very seriously.

In a statement, he said: "We are very pleased with the outcome today.

"The court obviously saw this for what is was, which was a genuine sourcing mistake, which was reflected in the court not awarding compensation or a fine.

"Sarah Coggles has 32 years of impeccable trading, where goods are sourced worldwide was taken into account.

"We discovered a problem with the T-shirts in-house and withdrew them from the shop floor after only three hours.

"In that time we had sold three to one person.

"The next day we offered him a full refund that he refused.

"We take this matter very seriously and we have worked closely with brands such French Connection and Diesel to combat and suppress the manufacture and supply of fake products in the industry only to find ourselves the victim."

Last year Sarah Coggles won two coveted Drapers Awards for Designer Store Of The Year and Independent Retailer Of The Year. Judges praised Bage and his team for creating "an outstanding business".