World Anti-Counterfeiting Day (WAC) - now in its 21st year, and never more meaningful than it is today. Fact!
Establishing WAC day all these years ago to raise awareness of the problems associated with counterfeit goods, we’re not sure the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Network (or any of us!) could foresee back then, the challenges that an ever increasingly digital world would bring to the table. nor the battle we’d be waging to win the war against those that would dare to steal our ideas, and pass them off as their own, with often devastating results.
But what exactly is counterfeiting (asides from that fake Gucci bag at the market down the road)? And really, what’s the harm if you’re happy to fork out less for a fake sports jacket? You’re not hurting anyone - right? So, to ‘celebrate’ our favourite day of the year, let’s take a dive into the murky world of counterfeiting to discover what the problem really is - you might just be surprised!
What exactly is counterfeiting?
In a nutshell, to counterfeit something simply means to illegally replicate something authentic with the intent to steal, destroy or replace the original. Counterfeit items are generally created at a low cost, are then sold on at a higher value in order for the counterfeiters to make a healthy profit.
What are the most common counterfeited goods?
Worryingly, almost any type of product can be counterfeited, however there are some products that tend to be more attractive to counterfeiting than others - so items such as cosmetics, outdoor goods, toys and footwear. Let’s take a closer look ...
MAC, Chanel, Guerlain - premium cosmetics are a counterfeiter’s dream, easy to pass off as the real item (on first look), but never a pleasant experience for the unsuspecting customer. Seized cosmetic counterfeits have been found to contain high levels of not just bacteria, but animal waste too. Not nice, not safe, and not on our watch!
Outdoor Goods & Clothing
The explosion in the counterfeiting of outdoor goods is a huge problem for the brands that operate in this space. From crushing brand reputation, to putting customer safety at risk, to the child labour that’s often at the core of these counterfeiting operations, this is a biggie, and shows no sign of a slowdown.
Toys & Games
Counterfeit toys break laws, put children’s lives at risk, and shouldn’t be sold anywhere. But they are - and increasingly so. The UK toy market lost a whopping £400m to counterfeits in 2017, and forecasters are blunt with their future predictions - toy counterfeiting is on the rise, and every brand is at risk.
This year, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has reported that the trade in fake goods is now 3.3% of world trade - and rising. Part of that colossal figure is counterfeit footwear, at the time of reporting, the most prevalent illegal product found. Estimates value the fake footwear market at around $12 billion per year - that’s around 10% of the total global market value. Ouch!
What are the impacts of buying counterfeit goods?
Where do we start? From irreparable brand damage to sinking a small business, seriously compromising safety and health to lost revenues, and worse (child labour, anyone?), counterfeiting is no laughing matter. And yet, the digital landscape that’s offered us all once unimagined opportunities, has also driven the counterfeiting machine that we’re all potential victims of.
Harmful to your health
We’ve already touched upon the less than savoury ingredients found in fake cosmetics. So, let’s not forget the lead, arsenic, mercury, and even urine that are on the counterfeit cosmetics menu. They might give you glowing skin, but not in the ways you imagine. The Local Government Association has warned that exposure to mercury in fake cosmetics could have “toxic effects on the nervous system, digestive and immune systems, lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.”
Counterfeit goods don’t usually follow strict safety procedures (or any procedures) that you’d expect from authentic items. Electrical Safety First’s technical experts uncovered a range of serious safety flaws with counterfeit electrical products, including a severe lack of protection from electric shocks, as well as the potential to ignite a fire. Don’t get us started on fake toy products … we’ve all seen the news items. No child should be exposed to the health risks of counterfeit toys.
Supporting organised crime and terrorism
Consumers could unintentionally be supporting organised crime and terrorism when they purchase counterfeit goods. Links have been made between counterfeiting and human trafficking, and some officials have suggested that terrorist groups such as the Islamic State have sold counterfeit products to finance their activities and attacks.
How can you avoid buying counterfeit goods?
Chances are that at some point, we’ve all been tempted by the bargain price of a counterfeit product - either knowingly or otherwise. No one wants to be knowingly funding illicit activities, so here’s our take on how to avoid the counterfeits, and spend your money more wisely:
Research, research, research!
It’s wise for wary consumers to carry out at least some research before purchasing a product that’s prone to counterfeit, especially if you’re spending a lot of money on said product. There are lots of online resources to help consumers distinguish between fake and authentic products. And don’t forget, you can always reach out to the manufacturer directly if you’ve any concerns before you spend your hard-earned cash!
Shop at reputable retailers
Online shopping can be particularly difficult, especially when leading online retailers are being misused by relentless counterfeiters as an exploitation platform. One way to be totally certain is by shopping from brands’ official stores rather than third-party sellers. Bottom line - if you’re not sure, don’t!
Trust your instincts
As above, if that pair of Nikes looks too good to be true, it probably is. Authentic brands rarely offer huge discounts on their products, so to come across a high-end that’s surprisingly cheap would be questionable.
SnapDragon helps to tackle counterfeiters across a wide range of industries, with a 98% success rate. If you would like to discuss protecting your brand online, let’s get the conversation started.
Join in raising anti-counterfeit awareness by sharing this blog post on social media.