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European consumers facing more risks than ever due to fake products sold online

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

15 Jun 2021

Business

Image: Scam via Pexels

A new study by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) says consumers are facing ever more risks due to buying fake products online. A surge in e-commerce counterfeit from nearly every sector, including fashion, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, can pose great safety and health concerns.

Findings from the study European Citizens and Intellectual Property show consumers still find it hard to distinguish between genuine and fake goods. Nearly 1 in 10 Europeans (9 percent) claimed that they were misled into buying counterfeits, with significant differences among EU Member States.

The countries with a higher proportion of misled consumers are Bulgaria (19 percent), Romania (16 percent) and Hungary (15 percent). In contrast, Sweden (2 percent) and Denmark (3 percent) have the lowest figures within the EU. Ireland is well above the EU average with 13 percent claiming to have been tricked into buying fake goods.

In a global context where e-commerce is booming – over 70 percent of Europeans shopped online in 2020, according to Eurostat – uncertainty regarding counterfeit products remains a concern among EU citizens. According to the study, a third of Europeans (33 percent) wondered whether a product they had bought was original.

Counterfeits represent 6.8 percent of EU imports worth EUR 121 billion

Concern over counterfeit products has risen during the pandemic, such as personal protective equipment and face masks, highlighting infringers who prey on people’s uncertainty about emerging treatment and vaccines.

The Executive Director of the EUIPO, Christian Archambeau, said in a statement: Intellectual property is one of Europe’s most valuable assets, and a key element in our social and economic recovery, especially for small businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic has put the problem of IP crime under a magnifying lens with the rise of counterfeit medicines and medical products that further threaten the health and safety of citizens. This is a long-standing issue, often interlinked with other types of illegal activities, which requires urgent robust, coordinated action and has recently been reinstated as one of the top ten EU priorities in the fight against organised crime.

Today less than 9 percent of all SMEs in the EU own registered IP rights

To raise awareness on the value of IP and help SMEs leverage their competitiveness in the marketplace, the EUIPO has launched the Ideas Powered for Business programme, including a EUR 20 million SME Fund, in cooperation with the European Commission and Member States’ Intellectual Property Offices. This initiative subsidises both IP assessment services and 50 percent of trade mark and design applications fees at national, regional or EU level, and it is helping thousands of SMEs develop their IP strategies in these challenging times.

Article source: EUIPO study "Consumers are facing more risks than ever due to fake products"