Popular with counterfeitersUntil fairly recently, only luxury items and “name brand” bags and handbags, watches and clothing items were counterfeited. Today, however, counterfeiting covers everything from batteries, cosmetics and medicines to games, foodstuffs and spare parts for cars. Here, you can find out more about the items that are most popular with counterfeiters.
- Clothing, shoes and accessories
- Medicines, health and food supplements
- Everyday household goods
- Car parts
- Electronic goods
- Tobacco and alcohol
- Designer furniture
Exclusive Swiss watches, designer clothing from France and leather goods from Italy. Building up a brand name to the point where it becomes a fashion icon usually requires an enormous amount of preparatory work, innovation and risk taking. The owners of luxury brand names invest a lot of money to build up a particular image, including investment in quality assurance and innovation in order to maintain its reputation. All this contributes to the brand's popularity.
Normal clothing items and shoes are subjected to a range of tests and checks to make sure that customers can use and enjoy the products safely. Fake clothing and shoes may well have been treated with chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions and skin irritation..
According to a Europol risk analysis report from 2013, the money earned from counterfeit brand names is used to finance other illegal activities and organised crime such as people trafficking and drug smuggling.
However, it should be borne in mind that those who purchase cheap imitation «Gucci» sunglasses on the beach in Sardinia are not just ruining things for luxury brand names. Such purchases also have a direct impact on Norwegian society in the form of lost workplaces and tax revenue. Moreover, legitimate businesses are exposed to unfair competition from business operations that are involved in stealing the ideas and work of others, and who therefore have no need to invest resources in product development. This, in turn, means that the brand name manufacturers suffer reduced profits and have less room to invest in innovation. Thus global growth in society is diminished.
You take a big risk by buying medicines that may be counterfeit. Such medicines are not subject to checks by the statutory authorities and often contain the wrong dosages and ingredients. They will also often contain ingredients that are not listed, or possibly no medicinal ingredients whatsoever. In the worst case scenario, counterfeit medicines can make you seriously ill, or prove fatal. According to Interpol, bogus medicines have been found to contain poisonous substances like rat poison.
Therefore, if you buy medicines from anyone other than a legitimate chemist, you are taking a big risk and putting your health, and even possibly your life, in danger.
It's easy to be fooled by counterfeit medicines. The packaging is often of a very high standard and looks identical to the authentic version. In some cases, laboratory tests are the only way to establish the difference between fake and authentic medicines.
More and more people are buying medicines online. According to the Norwegian Medicines Agency, around 90% of the «chemists» selling medicines on the internet are doing so illegally.
According to the World Health Organisation, all types of medicine are being counterfeited; from medicines for life-threatening illnesses like cancer and HIV drugs to cheap pain and antihistamine medicines.
Read more about fake medicines, fraudulent chemists etc on the Norwegian Medicines Agency web site.
Read more about imported medicines on the Norwegian Customs web site.
Also read - Interpol's report on pharmaceutical crime from 2014, which deals with the link between drug counterfeiting and organised crime.
Health food and supplements
Certain bogus products being marketed as «natural health foods» or listed as «containing only natural ingredients» can also contain chemical substances that are poisonous and not authorised for use in Norway. Such products are not necessarily examples of brand name pirating, as they are often sold under their own trademark. Therefore, the problem here is not how the products are sold or advertised but rather that they may contain other substances and mixtures that are not listed in the table of contents.
You can find out more about these issues at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority web site
Makeup, creams, and other cosmetics are pirated extensively. These products are usually sold on the internet by unauthorised sellers and, just as with medicines, these products can contain poisonous and harmful substances. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority has discovered traces of mercury and steroids in skin creams, soaps and lotions, for example.
If you purchase fake cosmetics, you have no way of knowing who produced them, what they contain and who has guaranteed they are safe to use. Nor are there any checks in place to ensure the products were manufactured in sterile conditions. This means that pirated cosmetics can contain large amounts of bacteria that are absent from genuine products.
Read more about fake cosmetics at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority web site
Up until now, few people would connect daily household goods with counterfeiting. However, and unfortunately, the last few years have seen a noticeable rise in the seizure of fake foodstuffs and daily household products. Biscuits, seafood, chocolate, olive oil, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorants, soup packets, detergents and shower gels are all examples of household goods that are being pirated.
In 2014, Europol carried out a large scale anti-pirating operation and seized 1200 tons of fake foodstuffs and 430 000 litres of fake drinks. Fish and seafood products represented the largest fake foodstuffs category. One of the aims of the operation was to identify the crime networks that are running the distribution and sale of fake foodstuffs.
Manufacturers that counterfeit household goods and fake brand names, use substandard raw materials, and do not observe hygiene or quality controls in their production processes. Those who are running the production of fake goods are difficult to track down and there is, therefore, rarely an individual who can be held liable if you fall sick, say, after eating pirated foodstuffs, or where a baby's nappy contains harmful substances, or where an item is not of the quality you expected.
Whether it's «Toblerone» from South America, «Greek olive oil» from India or «Aceto Balsamico» from Asia, the products are a danger to consumers and are harmful to the economy of the original manufacturer.
The pirating of car parts is widespread. If you purchase «alloy wheels» or brake pads from an unauthorised dealer, you have no guarantee whatsoever regarding vehicle safety. A recent UK crime report has revealed that BMW tested fake car parts with alarming results. The tests showed that fake tyres and wheels did not meet even the minimum safety requirements.
The brake pads were generally made of a mixture of steel wool and other metals held together by a resin, or a composite of ceramic materials. In this report «Too good to be true», the EU Commission revealed that pirated brake pads were discovered that were made of woodchip, or even compacted grass – in other words not materials you could depend on if you had to brake sharply on the motorway! Not even the «alloy wheels» you can buy are necessarily safe. It's almost certain that they don't contain much aluminium, and again there's no guarantee regarding quality or road performance. The fact that some of the wheels function very well does not mean that the others will be the same, bearing in mind you cannot be entirely sure who made them. Manufacturers of fake goods do not comply with complicated production standards that force costs upon them.
Wooden toys painted with paint containing lead; fun "jelly" trolls that contain paraffin; cuddly teddy bears with eyes that haven't been secured properly and which therefore pose a risk of choking. Toys and games also feature prominently in the world of counterfeit goods. If you are offered brand name games at a surprisingly low price, or via unusual sales channels, you have good grounds for avoiding such a purchase. These goods have not been subject to the kind of product safety checks that apply for toys and games made by legitimate manufacturers.
Many games and toys sold at markets and fairs do not satisfy safety requirements and can be highly dangerous for small children. However, it's also worth bearing in mind that a game or toy that does not fulfil basic statutory requirements may not necessarily be a fake. They may just be poor quality items where the brand name hasn't necessarily been pirated.
What to consider when buying games/toys for children:
More information on the web site for Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB)
16 points of advice when buying games/toys for the under 3s (PDF - in Norwegian)
Fake smartphones and chargers, earphones, kitchen appliances, music systems, hair dryers, hair straighteners, curling irons and TVs. Electronic devices are widely pirated and these fake versions constitute a serious risk to health and safety.
According to a UK crime report, 80 000 potentially dangerous mobile chargers were seized within the space of three days in one particular crackdown. See «UK IP Crime Report 2013-2014». These goods are not made with the idea that consumers should enjoy a safe and appealing product, but rather that the illegal manufacturer gets the biggest possible profit.
You have no guarantee that the fake version will function properly; nor can you be sure that it's safe to use. Pirated electrical goods can give a nasty electric shock, can suddenly short, or worst of all catch fire. Unlike pirated items, legal electrical goods fulfil stringent safety requirements. If you purchase such goods, you are not just taking a big personal risk, you are also contributing to a situation where those who should be earning money on an item they created do not receive anything.
A seemingly great offer on tobacco or cheap drinks can be hard to turn down given the prices we have in Norway. But if you purchase cheap cigarettes or drinks from an unauthorised agent you can end up with a far more dangerous product than you expected.
In the UK, the Local Government Association (LGA) issued a press release in August 2014 to inform the media that the customs authorities had seized millions of counterfeit cigarettes. Some of these were filled with dead flies, human excrement, asbestos, dust, soil and unusually high amounts of carcinogenic chemicals.
Fake cigarettes represent a greater fire risk than legal cigarettes, because fake cigarettes are not designed to go out if they are not actively smoked.
Drinks containing alcohol from legal manufacturers are made from ethanol, which is safe to drink in moderate amounts. A crime report in the UK shows that criminals use cheap substitutes such as methane and isopropanol in pirated alcohol. See «UK IP Crime Report 2013-2014».
Isopropanol is normally used in detergents, nail varnish remover and window cleaning sprays. The possible consequences of drinking such substances can range from stomach pain and fatigue to temporary or even permanent blindness, coma or death.
Illegal sales of fake cigarettes and drinks has become a huge international problem. In other words, what you thought was a brilliant deal, can prove to be the very opposite. Choose authentic goods!
Many people wonder whether it is legal to buy cheap designer furniture from foreign websites. If you buy the furniture as part of a business or commercial transaction, it is illegal to import it to Norway. This applies regardless of whether it is legal to manufacture and market the same furniture in Britain. On the other hand, it is not an offense to purchase such designer furniture and send it to Norway if it is for private use. Read more on the boundary between commercial and private use.
Online stores in Britain
Until April 2016, Norwegian customers bought copies of Danish and Italian designer furniture mainly from online stores in Britain. The reason for this is that up until now Britain has had a shorter period of copyright protection for arts and crafts than most other countries.
In Britain, arts and crafts have been protected by intellectual property legislation for 25 years after the product came on the market. Conversely, the period of protection for this type of product in Norway, most other European countries and the United States, is 70 years after the copyright holder's death.
From 28th April 2016, it is no longer legal to produce or import copies of this type of designer furniture in Britain.
However, a transition period of six months before the new legislation takes effect has been introduced, so that businesses that have legally produced or imported arts and crafts before the ban was introduced, should have the opportunity to clear their stores.
From 28th January 2017, all trade with copies of copyrighted arts and crafts, including the typical furniture classics, will be illegal in Britain.
What does this mean for Norwegian consumers
As copies of furniture classics will no longer be sold legally on the market in Britain, hopefully the number of online stores offering such furniture will be reduced.
However, if you should still stumble upon this type of furniture offered up for sale on web sites in other countries, the same rules apply as written in the introduction to this article.