European Anti-Fraud Office

OLAF to investigate illegal trade in counterfeit goods

OLAF to investigate illegal trade in counterfeit goods

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has long been investigating the illegal trade in counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco products but its mandate also includes investigations related to other counterfeit goods that enter the EU through its external borders.

The crimes related to the trade in counterfeit products, which generates vast illicit profits and huge losses of tax revenues due to the black market in fake products, has increased dramatically in recent years. They harm the European economy as they damage legitimate business and stifle innovation, putting many jobs at risk in Europe. More often than not counterfeiting poses serious risks to the environment and for health and safety.

The Commission is already involved in developing policies and legislation to protect the legitimate trade as well as the consumer against the large-scale traffic of counterfeit products. In principle, the competent authorities of the EU Member States are responsible for the enforcement of the anti-counterfeiting provisions.

However, in order to combat the problem more efficiently and to dismantle international fraud networks involved  in the traffic of counterfeit and pirated goods at the external borders of the EU, OLAF is empowered to carry out administrative investigations in the EU in accordance with Regulation 515/97, which is referred to in the provisions in Art.36 of Regulation (EU) No 608/2013, concerning customs action against goods suspected of infringing IPR. (See also the implementation rules fixed in Regulation (EU) No 1352/2013).

In accordance with the customs mutual administrative assistance provisions concluded with third countries, OLAF may also participate upon request in investigations carried out in third countries in order to obtain all the necessary evidence.

Due to its internal procedures and the limited resources available, OLAF's investigative capacities are only allocated to significant cases with specific emphasis on counterfeit goods posing a risk for the environment or public health and safety.

OLAF's investigations into fraud related to counterfeit goods, which are carried out in close cooperation with the EU Member States, significantly and constructively contribute to the activities currently undertaken by other Commission services. In this area, the Office is also developing a partnership with the industrial sectors represented in the European Observatory on Infringements of IPR to better combat this fraud.

In this respect, if the representatives of the industry suspect IPR infringement with a potentially negative impact for EU public funds, whether EU revenue or expenditure, as well as for the environment and for health and safety, they should fill in and return the following form" for reporting allegation of IPR Infringement" to:

European Commission
European Anti-Fraud Office
Unit B.2. Tobacco & Counterfeit Goods
Rue Joseph II 30, B-1049 Brussels- Belgium
Fax : +32 2 299 81 07

NB: The abovementioned procedure, which aims to assess the need for OLAF to conduct an investigation, is not intended to supersede the possibility for a right-holder to lodge in writing a "national application form" or a "Union application form" to the competent customs department in accordance with the provisions to in Articles 3 to 9 and 29 of Council Regulation (EU) No 608/2013.