Fake products: what they are and the risks involved

“Fake products” may go by other names — forgery, counterfeit, bogus, knockoff, ripoff — but they have been with us for a long time. Lately, however, they have been appearing in new and unexpected areas.

Counterfeiting, an expanding business

Most commonly we find counterfeits in clothing, footwear and sunglasses, but medicine and even food are industries that are are quite familiar with this phenomenon, despite the efforts made to raise public awareness and keep this kind of fraud from proliferating.

This is an underground business that moves billions every year around the world, translating into huge losses for the original brands. In Spain, for example, eleven industries collectively lost 6.8 billion euros between 2012 and 2016, according to calculations by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the most affected being the following:

  • Textiles (clothing and footwear) and accessories are undoubtedly the most affected, with losses of 3.8 billion and 839 million euros respectively.
  • Medications.
  • Smartphones.
  • Wines and spirits.

This trend, which young people are often happy to support, has been boosted by the proliferation of peer-to-peer sales portals, reaching such a large volume of items that it is very difficult to control. And this despite the fact that selling counterfeit items is illegal and carries serious penalties.

Acquiring an imitation or fake product often means dealing with a lower quality product that does not meet minimum quality standards. This indirectly harms the brand and our rights as consumers.

How can we tell if a product is counterfeit?

To determine whether a product is counterfeit or not, here are a few tips:

  • Identify the seller. Identify who and where the seller is, and ratings by their customers. We can also review the sales history and see what products they have been selling, because original brands usually have full product lines, while counterfeits have only one or two models of the product.
  • Look for reviews from other consumers to see if they have left positive (or negative) comments somewhere on the web. Be discerning, however, as the company itself may have left positive comments about itself.
  • Ask the manufacturer. You can ask the actual manufacturer, as they will know best if it is a real product or not.
  • Contact the seller and ask for documents. Counterfeit branding also appears on the labeling and boxes, but it is not always well executed.
  • Pay with a secure payment method, especially if you are making an online purchase.

Fake products in industry

Counterfeiting is not limited to the world of textiles, but also occurs in heavy industry, including forging. In fact, several years ago, the Kobe Steel affair, named after a Japanese company that sold counterfeit aluminum, copper and steel to some of the most powerful shipping companies in the market, became quite notorious.

But how can a forged product be counterfeited?

  • They are counterfeited by adulterating the quality of forged fittings. They are then registered with higher material grades than they actually have, which has consequences for the distributors.
  • Health and legal protection. Manufacturing materials may not meet quality standards, failing to comply with customer specifications and industry regulations. They are often not tested for defects.
  • Environment. Considering where these materials are used, an accident caused by counterfeit products can have a major impact on the environment and endanger human lives.
  • Economic. Damage to the end user’s facility often requires maintenance and causes business interruption. In addition, governments lose tax revenues and are forced to allocate funds to fight corruption.

In short, fake products are very common in many industries, including the steel industry. Therefore, there is an obligation to provide training on this type of deception and the consequences it entails.