PURCHASES of fake goods in Ireland were up 20% last year, bucking a trend which saw counterfeiters take a big hit across the EU on foot of the economic downturn.
The biggest demand was for cigarettes, clothes, medicines and beauty products such as hair-straightening lotions.
And the internet is proving a boon to counterfeiters, as goods can be easily ordered online and sent through the post, making them more difficult for customs to detect.
The latest figures released by the EU showed that, overall, goods seized were down by 65% last year.
“We believe this is due to the economic downturn,” said John Taylor, presenting the latest findings on counterfeit seizures in the EU last year.
Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Poland and Spain all showed a drop of about 75% in the number of items seized by customs, which is a clear indication of the amount of goods being ordered, the experts say.
The increase in other countries was not big enough to make up for the fall-off in business in these countries.
In Ireland, there were 20% more goods seized in 2009 compared with the previous year, while Britain registered a 50% increase.
The biggest drop in sales was seen in counterfeit CD/DVDs, electrical equipment and shoes.
While in the past luxury goods were the most popular items for counterfeiters, they are increasingly turning to everyday goods like toiletries, clothing and lifestyle medicines like Viagra or diet pills.
People continue to disregard warnings about using products such as toothpastes, foodstuffs, medicines and equipment bought from counterfeiters, the EU says.
The vast majority, about 80% of the goods, come from China, but not always directly as they are increasingly being re-routed through other countries first to try to avoid detection.
For instance, last year saw an increase in medicines coming through the United Arab Emirates, toys and games coming through Egypt, while more foodstuffs and beverages were being channelled through Turkey.
European Commissioner for Anti-fraud and Customs, Algirdis Semeta, is visiting China in September to encourage the government to take greater action to prevent counterfeiters.
“Fake products can pose a serious health and safety risk for consumers and cheat legitimate businesses. We are working with our international trading partners and industry to ensure the highest level of protection for intellectual property rights in the EU,” he said.
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