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       EU Policies 30/04/2013
European Commission campaign: Too good to be true: the real price of fake products

Counterfeiting activities account for over €200 billion in losses for the world economy and it is estimated that such losses may climb further. They harm the European economy, as they damage legitimate business and starve innovation. And fake goods compete unfairly with genuine products, putting many jobs at risk in Europe.


Counterfeiters are in the market for medicines, fashion goods, food products, automotive brakes, electrical appliances, cosmetics and our children's toys, to name but a few examples. In Europe, the problem can pose health and safety risks and has become a major handicap to growth and employment. To help counter the risks to citizens and businesses posed by counterfeit goods, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani, and Commissioner Michel Barnier, responsible for internal market and services, called upon European citizens to be aware of the risk of buying fake goods.


The campaign’s objectives are to raise consumer awareness about the dangers of counterfeit goods as well as to promote closer cooperation between the European Commission, national authorities - including law enforcement agencies and customs - and consumers, producers and trade associations to stop the production and circulation of counterfeit goods, calling on all Europeans to make a stand against fake products and buy original products.


Fake products – some impressive figures


The global volume of trade in fake goods stands at over €200 billion per year – a similar magnitude to the market for illegal drugs;

Between 2010 and 2011, the volume of fake articles detained by European customs grew by 11%;

In 2009, the value of the top 10 brands in EU countries amounted to almost 9% of GDP

Fashion and high-end personal products encompass 54% of the total value of goods detained at EU borders;

In 2011 alone, 115 million fake goods were detained at the EU borders, with an overall value of over €1.2 billion;

Almost one third of the articles detained by EU customs in 2011 were found to be potentially dangerous to the health and safety of consumers, almost double the proportion in 2010.

In 2011, 27 million fake medicines were detained by European authorities

Postal transport is the most common means used to ship fake goods ordered on-line. It was the method used in 63% of cases detected in 2011, followed by air transport (22%) and express courier transport (7%)


Fake goods are bad for safety


Products that could be dangerous to the health and safety of consumers accounted for almost one third of the total amount of articles detained by EU customs in 2011, almost double the proportion in 2010. Traders in fake articles are crooks. As they have no reputation to protect, they do not care about consumer safety.


Car parts are among their most popular targets: fake automotive parts cost suppliers between five and ten billion euro every year, while drivers are exposed to substantial risks when tricked into buying fake products. European legislation requires that all parts and components essential for the safety and environmental performance of motor vehicles are subject to controls before they can be placed on the EU market. But dealers in fakes ignore these requirements, and not just in a small way. Brake pads are among the most commonly imitated car parts. Fakes have been found made from wood chips – or even grass! Citizens buying in unfamiliar circumstances should therefore be vigilant.


Dangers can also lie in products where the risk is less obvious. For example toys. They should be the safest goods as they are made for children. But if they don’t conform to safety regulations, they can pose a serious danger. Fake toys are widespread. Fake toys can contain dangerous materials, like paint containing poisonous chemicals. They may be made with detachable small parts, prohibited according to the EU’s toy safety legislation, as they can pose choking hazards to children.


National governments, producers, trade and consumers associations, the EU Commission, and of course EU citizens, can all help fight against counterfeiting


National law enforcement authorities play a key role in preventing the entry of counterfeit goods to the EU, with the support and the cooperation of EU bodies such as EUROPOL and OLAF. The European Commission (which incorporates the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy) and EU Member States, together with producers, trade and consumers associations are working hard to better enforce the rules which protect citizens and business against goods and products which do not meet safety standards. This anti-counterfeiting campaign is promoted by the European Commission, and notably by Vice-President Tajani and Commissioner Barnier, in collaboration and with the support of national authorities. Vice President Tajani was in Rome to present the campaign to the public and later on  the campaign will be presented to the press officers of Customs and Police Authorities of the 27 Members States, during the 12th OLAF Anti-Fraud Communicators Network (OAFCN) seminar in Rome.


Already in February 2013 the Commission further strengthened market surveillance through a multi-annual plan and a single legislative instrument that will reinforce the controls on products in the internal market, allowing authorities to withdraw non-compliant and dangerous products immediately from the market. Authorities in Member States now have stronger powers to take non-compliant and dangerous products off the market immediately. Unsafe fake products will get caught in the net and kept away from consumers. To raise the effectiveness of this across the EU, the Commission has set out a plan which involves greater resource sharing, better IT tools, tougher and more targeted external controls at the Union borders and harsher penalties.


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