Search icon


26th Jun 2022

Buying fake designer goods abroad this summer can have some serious consequences

Trine Jensen-Burke

fake designer goods

Ever been tempted to snap up a bargain ‘Louis Vuitton’ bag or ‘Tom Ford’ sunglasses from a beach seller?

I think we have all been in this position at some point, especially if you have travelled to some popular sun holiday destinations places where counterfeit goods are big business for street sellers and market stall holders.

However, while it may be super tempting to snap up a bag or some heels that look like the real deal for a fraction of the price they actually cost, it is actually a really bad idea, warns the European Consumer Centres Network.

“A counterfeit copy is usually cheap but can end up costing you a lot more in the long run,” the ECCN swarns ahead of summer holiday travels.

“In many countries, the laws against counterfeit products are harsh. And in some European countries, you can be fined up to €10,000, not only if you purchase a counterfeit product, but also if you bring it into the country.”

Million euro business with serious consequences

According to the latest Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment, produced by Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) last year, around 66 million counterfeit and pirated goods were seized in the EU in 2020.

And while counterfeit bags and fashion goods are one thing, the ECCN warns that when it comes to fake versions of well-known beauty products, perfumes and even medicines, there is an actual really danger involved, as many of these contains ingredients that are neither regulated nor safety approved in the EU.

“Many counterfeit products do not comply with applicable safety requirements and can be immediately dangerous.”

This also goes for counterfeit toys and goods for babies and children, many of which do not comply with applicable safety requirements and can be immediately dangerous.

The ECC points out:

“Ask yourself: ‘Is that fake toy for your baby girl free of toxic substances? Are you sure your fake battery won’t explode when you’re using it?’  If toys easily break or lose small parts, they can be fatal for children.”

The report stated that Intellectual Property (IP) crime continues to pose a “substantial threat” to the health and safety of EU consumers, and estimated that €119 billion of products involving this type of crime were imported into the EU in 2019.

Creates demand for child labour

Another major issue with buying counterfeit goods is that you know nothing about how it was produced, where it was made, who made it and what the conditions were like for the workers involved.

According to the US-based Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade, “amongst the worst crimes associated with illicit trade is the demand it creates for forced and child labour to carry out the tasks of making counterfeits”.

In a report from last year, it was noted that the counterfeit phenomenon, was far from a victimless crime.

“As is evident by the sheer number of cases of forced labour in counterfeit apparel, footwear and luxury goods, the use of forced labour is a pervasive problem in both the manufacturing and sales of goods.”

The report added:

“Similarly, the manufacturing and sale of counterfeit electronics is also a sector where forced labourers are abused by organised criminals, with severe human rights consequences.”

How to recognise counterfeit goods

According to RTÉ, the most obvious indications when it comes to spotting counterfeit products are location and price – as in, if a Hermes Birkin handbag is being sold cheaply on a beach or at a sidestreet market, then it’s obviously not the real deal.

“The counterfeit product can end up being more expensive than the genuine product if you are forced to pay fines,” states the ECCN.

Other signs a product is fake include the seams and labels being of inferior quality. The inside should be made with the same care as the outside.

The ECCN advises people to read the laundry instructions tag carefully – text in counterfeit products is often misspelt.

“If in doubt, ask where the product was made and keep a receipt.”