My attention was drawn to a rather disturbing report concerning faked designer goods. Some of the figures being banded around are quite alarming. For example, in 2008 customs officials seized a staggering 178 million faked items - mostly imported from China. Even more incredible, in France the maximum fine for being caught with faked goods is 300,000 euros (£260,000) or three years in jail. Add to this the fact that the UK government says legitimate businesses lose an estimated £10 billion a year to counterfeiters with £9 billion ending up in the hands of gangs. The Italian authorities, though less harsh than the French are threatening severe action against against those caught buying such merchandise. Fortunately, the UK government has decided against criminalising consumers. Instead it aims to target markets and car boot sales in an attempt to stop the counterfeits being sold.
Intellectual property lawyer Simon Tracey said anyone tempted to bring back items such as fake designer sunglasses, a football top or handbag from their holidays should beware. But he said it was hard to persuade people that owning a fake was "a bad thing."
Apart from the huge loss in revenue as a result of these illegal activities, there is also a safety issue involved. Fake alcohol can be particularly dangerous, causing blindness or death. Copied toiletries can be harmful and counterfeit toys and medicines will not have passed safety tests.
Whilst these facts are alarming, it does seems to me, that many innocently unaware people would be prosecuted simply for buying something they like not necessarily because they want to parade around in designer gear. I also think the UK governments claims that businesses lose an estimated £10 billion a year is ridiculously exaggerated. This figure can only be arrived at by assuming that all those people who purchased counterfeit goods would otherwise have bought the genuine articles. They simply would not be able to afford the 'real thing' because the price would be extortionate. That is precisely why they buy the counterfeit goods in the first place, thus creating the whole problem.
Click on the video link below to hear some interesting views from consumers asked to spot the fake handbag: