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Customs detain €1 billion worth of fake goods at EU borders in 2012

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Fake goods are not a cheap alternative to the purchase of genuine goods; they can be dangerous. And unfortunately they are still trying to enter the EU in large numbers. In 2012 EU Customs detained almost 40 million products suspected of violating intellectual property rights, according to a recently released annual Commission report.

Too good to be true

Most people are aware that selling and shipping goods to the EU that infringe an intellectual property right such as a trademark or a patent is illegal. But many do not realise that fake goods end up costing much more than their price tag. They increase fiscal pressure on honest citizens, harm legitimate European businesses, and push unemployment up. Protecting the intellectual property rights (IPR) of companies and organisations is a cornerstone of the EU economy, a key driver for its further growth in areas such as research, innovation and employment.

Blocking fake goods at our borders is also essential for health and safety; certain counterfeited products - such as medicines, foodstuffs, body-care articles and children’s toys - produced in an unregulated environment can pose a serious threat to citizens' health.

Popular fake goods

In 2012 cigarettes accounted for a large number of interceptions (31%). Miscellaneous goods (e.g. bottles, lamps, glue, batteries, washing powder) were the next largest category (12%), followed by packaging materials (10%). Postal and courier packages accounted for around 70% of customs interventions in 2012, with 23% of the detentions in postal traffic concerning medicines.

Sources and trends in fake goods delivery

China remained the primary country from which suspected IPR infringing goods were sent. Hong Kong was the main provenance of other tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes and liquid fillings, while Morocco was the source of suspected IPR infringing foodstuffs.

Over the last 3 years, customs have seen a shift towards small packages of IPR infringing goods coming into the EU via post and couriers. This is most probably due to the more intense use of the internet and the possibilities consumers have to buy goods online and have them delivered directly to their home.

Further statistics on the type, provenance and transport method of counterfeit products detained at the EU's external borders are available in today's report.

Next steps

An EU-wide information campaign has been launched by the European Commission to increase awareness among European citizens of the negative effects of this spreading plague. The European Commission and EU Member States are also working hard to better enforce the rules which protect citizens and business against goods and products which do not meet safety standards. From 2013 authorities in Member States will have stronger powers to take non-compliant and dangerous products off the market immediately.

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