Many of those counterfeit goods that pose a relevant health, safety, or environmental risk are seized in the European Union. This is now shown by the recently published analysis Dangerous Fakes by OECD and EUIPO, which analyzes global seizure results of law enforcement agencies, especially customs seizures, between 2017 and 2019. Germany plays a significant role as one of the main targets of such dangerous counterfeits.
According to the study, around half (approx. 47%) of all customs seizures of dangerous counterfeits headed into the EU were destined for import into Germany. Further relevant countries of destination in the EU include Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and Austria, all following at a considerable distance. Looking at the value of seizures, Germany ranks second after the United Kingdom, which was still a member of the EU in the time period analyzed.
Germany also plays an important role as a target market for dangerous counterfeits in an international comparison: While the USA accounted for around 37% of global customs seizures of dangerous counterfeits, Germany represents more than one fifth of these global seizures (approx. 21%). Third place is taken by Belgium with only about 9%, followed by Italy (about 6%) and Denmark (about 3%).
Many of these dangerous counterfeits are traded online: Almost two-thirds (around 60%) of global seizures of shipments of dangerous counterfeits destined for the EU are traced back to e-commerce trade. That this can represent a particular risk for Germany, is, for example, highlighted by Christian Köhler, CEO of the German Brands Association (Markenverband): “There will only be a safe Internet if consumers are finally effectively protected from buying counterfeit products online.” The association therefore calls in a recent release to take decisive action against counterfeit trade with the upcoming Digital Services Act (DSA) in the EU.
Among the most frequently seized dangerous counterfeit products destined for the EU market were perfumes and cosmetics (approx. 35%), clothing (approx. 24%), and toys (approx. 24%); just recently, for example, a Europol action caused a stir with several million counterfeit toys seized. Other relevant products included automotive parts (about 7%), pharmaceuticals, as well as electrical equipment and electronics, according to OECD/EUIPO information.
At around two-thirds, the vast majority of counterfeits destined for the EU originate from China; both in terms of share of global customs seizures and share of seizure value. The next places are taken by Hong Kong (China) and Turkey.
Just recently., another study by the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) also highlighted dangerous counterfeit products in the apparel and footwear sector that are e.g. contaminated with chemicals and heavy metals. In this context, the association is calling for the swift adoption of current draft legislation in the USA to curb counterfeiting in online retail, such as the INFORM Consumers Act and the SHOP SAFE Act.