Next to interviews with influencers and consumers, customs and police, as well as brand protection experts and manufacturers, the TV documentary, released in October, showed interesting explanations from an insider. The anonymous informant described how fraudsters often set up production and distribution of counterfeit goods, trying to avoid prosecution. This included, for example, keeping the stocks of counterfeit goods in the factories low, so that in the event of a raid, only a small number of fakes could be found.
The insider reported from the business with counterfeited shoes, for example, and noted that further relocations of production could in some cases also pose a threat to brand manufacturers: If production were moved from China to other Asian countries with even lower wage levels, former brand manufacturers in China could use their knowledge to manufacture counterfeits on their own. According to the insider, many fake shoes come from modern factories nowadays and are, in his estimation, as good as the originals.
In addition to larger factories, counterfeiters often made use of small backyard workshops too, according to the experiences of Serhyi Jewtymowycz, from the car manufacturer Audi. The brand protection manager, who also highlights the risks of counterfeit goods, reportedly tries to identify the manufacturers and those behind the illegal business with test purchases. A video clip would show how Audi brand protection and Chinese authorities had eventually raided such a counterfeiting workshop. According to the TV report, Audi records around 200 anti-counterfeiting raids worldwide per year; the value of the counterfeits seized in these raids was estimated at around 100 million euros.
The WISO documentary used the example of the company koziol to show that even companies which strictly produce locally are apparently not immune to counterfeits originating in China. According to the report, the Hesse-based company develops elaborate everyday objects with a smart design and produces exclusively in Germany. In the interview, Managing Director Stefan Koziol nevertheless described immense losses and reported on market shares of counterfeits of up to 90%, depending on the product. For him, it is particularly bitter when the original design articles are virtually squeezed out of the market by counterfeits.
The company Wibit, a manufacturer of inflatable water playground modules from North Rhine-Westphalia, also reported about problems with counterfeits. According to Wibit, one method in particular had proven effective for their fight against such illegal competition: Wibit contacts buyers of counterfeit products, using targeted communications against counterfeiting. The company said it often succeeded in convincing users of counterfeits to buy an original.
In order to optimize the authorities’ fight against counterfeiting, Fédéric Dangelser, a senior police officer (Kriminaloberkommissar) at the Central Hesse Police Headquarters in Frankfurt, who specializes in the subject, was calling for authorities in Germany to join forces better. For example, he explained that the responsibilities of the various specialized police departments ended at the borders of the German federal states at the latest, and that the police authorities of the individual states were not optimally linked. Dangelser would prefer a joint investigations team, together with customs authorities, similar to what is done in the fight against drug-related crime. The investigator also considered that it was a problem that the penalties for counterfeiting were often relatively light.
Based on an alarming, Europe-wide study by the EUIPO, the WISO documentary also showed that just under two out of five consumers between the ages of 15 and 24 deliberately resort to counterfeiting once or repeatedly for cost reasons. In addition, influencers and online vendors are said to increasingly approach potential customers directly with counterfeits, encouraging them to make a purchase.
The German-language WISO documentary ‘Die Fake-Falle’ is available in the ZDF media library. A few years ago, a similar report by German media outlets ARD, NDR, and Zeit had already attracted attention.