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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Warning as fake goods flood market
Fake Gucci watches
Counterfeiters have moved on from fake brands, such as watches
Consumers are being warned to be on the lookout for counterfeit goods flooding into UK and European markets.

There has been a 900% increase in the number of counterfeit goods entering the European market in the past year.

And the pirates are moving away from T-shirts and jeans to more high tech electronic items such as Playstations and SLR cameras.

The European Commission is proposing new cross-border laws to tackle the fake goods market, which is estimated to be worth more than 1bn in Europe.

EC figures show counterfeiting and piracy cost UK industries over 8.5bn in 2001 - hitting small and medium businesses the hardest.

Pirates go high-tech

Meanwhile, figures from UK trading standards officers suggest that manufacturers are the biggest losers, to the tune of around 6bn.

Music - 736m
Leisure software - 1.5bn
Manufacturing - 6.18bn
Publishing - 0.6m
Business software - 342m
Cinema, home entertainment - 4m
source: Alliance Against Counterfeiting and Piracy
The practice has also cost 200,000 jobs in Europe, the data shows.

As counterfeiters move beyond music and branded fashion items, they have taken in a wide range of everyday items such as car parts, medicines, toiletries and electronic goods.

Camera-maker Canon has recently been targeted by the black market business, with 20,000 counterfeit cameras seized in Europe.

If real they would have been worth several million pounds.

The cameras had been destined for sale in markets and on the internet where they could fetch hundreds of pounds each, but purchasers would have no guarantee if they did not work.

Rooting out fakes

Fake Canon cameras waiting to be destroyed by Dutch authorities - Nelson Bostock Communications
20,000 fake Canon cameras have recently been seized by Customs
Canon is now teaming up with the EC and the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) to protect consumers and eliminate the problem.

Canon spokeswoman Anne Morgan said pirates are becoming more sophisticated and clever about the products they turn out.

"I think the electronic world is seeing copies of equipment that we hadn't anticipated seeing before.

"We particularly have a camera in the case of Canon which is a look-alike model and it carries a logo which can easily be associated with Canon so we are particularly concerned about it."

Consumer goods
Branded goods - clothes, watches, perfumes
Electronic goods - cameras, video players
Microsoft software products
source: UK Trading Standards
However, counterfeiting has much wider ramifications than its impact on businesses and consumers.

Financing crime

By snapping up a fake video, CD or handbag, people are effectively financing criminals, Bryan Lewin, UK Trading Standards Institute Lead Officer For Counterfeit Goods, said.

He added: "There are proved links between counterfeiting, piracy and people who are involved in serious and organised crime."

"Counterfeiting affects manufactures, reputable retailers and customers who are all cheated by these criminals."

Meanwhile, British business and trade enforcement groups have already joined together to form the Alliance Against Counterfeiting and Piracy (AACP) in a bid to beat the problem.

Their aim is to protect consumers from "shoddy ... potentially dangerous goods" and "ensure legitimate business flourishes".

The group is also campaigning to persuade the government to implement legislation to strengthen the hand of enforcement agencies attempting to crack the fake goods market.

Boxes of cameras seized by Dutch authorities - Nelson Bostock Communications
Big businesses and trading standards have teamed up to tackle counterfeiters
But, Canon's Anne Morgan does admit the war on fake goods could be an uphill battle.

'Good deal?'

"Ultimately consumers will go out and get the good deal."

"But is it really a good deal?

"They're walking away with something that has no come back or guarantee associated with it.

"Because if they've spent the money and cannot get the goods fixed when they don't work, or they might even in our case have pictures taken of a special occasion ... that can be ruined because the quality isn't there."

Fake goods linked to terrorism
17 Jul 03  |  Americas
Fake-toy importer extradited
19 Jun 03  |  North Yorkshire
Fake tobacco factory found
22 May 03  |  Scotland

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