Now is not the time to relax brand protection, says ACG

With news of scams relating to the COVID-19 pandemic emerging on an almost daily basis, it is imperative that companies maintain and even step up efforts to secure their brands.

That’s the message from the UK’s cross-industry Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) in its latest annual report, which says that while business may be struggling to contend with the coronavirus emergency “they more than ever need their brand protection workforces to help protect consumers and their company’s vital asset.”

“Criminal counterfeiters are in manufacturing overdrive,” says ACG director general Phil Lewis, adding they are working overtime to manufacture and stockpile counterfeits, ready to sell them once the heath crisis abates.

It’s clearly a tough call to make when business may be struggling to keep going as a result of the economic fallout of the lockdowns in place across many countries.

However, “shelving brand protection, now, simply hands the advantage to the criminals,” he continues. “We must be seen to play our part, otherwise we could easily send the wrong message to government and enforcement.”

The comments come amid an outbreak of counterfeiting of hand sanitiser, personal protective equipment (PPE), medicines and other goods in short supply during the pandemic, which has now seen confirmed cases rise above the 1.5m market with almost 90,000 deaths worldwide.

Parallel pandemic

Today, the BBC reported a surge in fake medicines for coronavirus, citing a World Health Organization (WHO) official who says there is "a parallel pandemic, of substandard and falsified products."

ACG expects the criminal networks to respond to the disruption by offering an even wider array of substandard and dangerous fakes as goods become scarce in the market.

“It is vital to have experts on the ground, who can put plans in place to tackle criminal networks in the UK, but also understand the situation, systems and laws in countries where most of the counterfeits come from, such as China, Turkey and India,” said Lewis.

During the last year, ACG and its members have been involved in more than 60 investigations into counterfeiting, 121 raids and other actions around the world, and helped take more than 400,000 counterfeit items with an estimated value of £15m ($18.6m) out of circulation, says the report.

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