Across markets up and down the UK there is a cat and mouse game between unscrupulous traders and Trading Standards Officers; that of rogue market traders selling counterfeit goods without getting caught and Trading Standards officers working to stop them.
Sometimes it’s obvious that the product is a cheap copy. Other times it can be harder to tell and takes an expert eye to spot a counterfeit product. But often the temptation to get the latest must have present for Christmas, or to save a few pounds on cheap alcohol or tobacco is too much of a temptation for shoppers.
What’s the problem with counterfeit goods?
Counterfeit goods are items of inferior quality and are produced without the knowledge or permission of the brand owner. Therefore, the seller is infringing on the trade mark, patent or copyright of the brander owner.
When you look at the quality a number of issues become apparent. For example, poor quality materials in a counterfeit handbag, regardless of the legality, may not be seen as a major concern. However, when you look at inferior materials in food items, children’s toys or electrical goods poor quality becomes a matter of public safety. Consider these examples:
- The BBC reported on counterfeit tobacco products being sold on Facebook that contained double the levels of lead and a third more cadmium than genuine products.
- One of last year’s must have toys was copied by counterfeiters looking to dupe parents. It’s unclear whether the counterfeits underwent the correct safety checks.
You don’t only find counterfeit products in traditional markets; eBay and other online markets have had its problems with sellers selling counterfeit products. eBay has taken action to protect buyers and has published advice on how to avoid buying counterfeit products. Indicators like price, product descriptions and customer’ reviews are useful in identifying counterfeits. But what if you genuinely believe you are paying the market rate for a genuine second hand item?
In short counterfeiting poses risks to public health and can dupe unsuspecting people into purchasing substandard items at inflated prices.
What should be done with counterfeit goods that have been seized?
There are some instances where it is appropriate to recycle or remove brand identifying labels from counterfeit products. These “debranded” items can be donated to charities. For instance, the charity International Aid Trust has sent debranded clothing to people needing aid in the Ukraine and other countries needing aid.
Donating debranded items is only an option where the items are safe and appropriate. This leaves the challenge of what do to do with unsafe products. In these instances, shredding or destruction ensures that counterfeit items are permanently removed from circulation; thereby protecting public safety and the brand owner’s reputation.