One in 10 EU consumers bought fakes in 2020; report

On average. nearly one in 10 Europeans (9 per cent) have said that they were misled into buying counterfeits, in a new report from the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The report found that a third of Europeans (33 per cent) wondered whether a product they had bought was original, amid estimates that €121bn ($144bn) of fake goods are making their way into the EU every year – accounting for 6.8 per cent of total imports into the bloc.

The counterfeits impacted every sector – from cosmetics and toys, wine and beverages, electronics, to clothing and even pesticides – and can pose serious health and safety risks to consumers.

"Concern over counterfeit products has risen even more during the COVID-19 pandemic," says the report.

"The proliferation of counterfeit medicines, including antibiotics and painkillers, and other medical products such as personal protective equipment and face masks, has drawn special attention to this phenomenon as infringers prey on citizens’ uncertainty about emerging treatment and vaccines," it adds.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises are particularly hard hit by the illicit activity, with one in four saying they suffered from this type of intellectual property infringement. IP crime, which is often linked to other types of illegal activities, was reinstated as one of the top 10 EU priorities in the fight against organised crime last month.

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Companies owning IP rights such as trademarks or patents reported loss of turnover (33 per cent), damage to their reputation (27 per cent) and loss of competitive edge (15 per cent) due to infringement of their rights.

The countries with a higher proportion of misled consumers were Bulgaria (19 per cent), Romania (16 per cent) and Hungary (15 per cent), with Sweden (2 per cent) and Denmark (3 per cent) at the other end of the scale.

The EUIPO recently published an Anti-Counterfeiting Technology Guide to help companies introduce measures to protect their goods from copying.

It covers the main types of anti-counterfeiting technology, including electronic identification or tracking devices, how to place markers on products or packaging, and other chemical, physical, mechanical, as well as digital tools for track-and-trace.

2019 data from the EUIPO found that approximately 72m fake items were detained in the EU down almost 21 per cent on 2018.

However, "despite the large reduction in the number of fake items detained in the EU, the estimated value of the goods – some €2.4bn ($2.9bn) – represents almost no decrease compared to the previous year."

That resulted from "the shift in the composition of the 'basket' of products detained [from] cheaper products in 2018 (i.e., toys, packaging material) to more expensive ones in 2019” - such as premium clothing, clothing accessories and non-sport shoes.

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