Christmas is a counterfeiter’s high season, and with UK e-commerce expected to be worth almost GBP200 billion at the end of 20201 it is likely this year’s festive period will provide even more opportunity than usual for those selling illegitimate goods online.
Each year we see a rise in counterfeit activities around the Christmas period. In 2019, the UK Border Force detained in excess of GBP2.8 million worth of counterfeit designer goods in November and December alone, including brands such as Gucci, Versace, and The North Face. Of course, this figure doesn’t take in to account goods which were not seized which likely made it to the market and eventually under an unsuspecting consumer’s Christmas tree.2 It’s not just counterfeit designer goods, however, that flourish at Christmas. A quarter of all toys sold in the UK each year are sold in December and counterfeits make for approximately GBP21 million worth. These goods are often dangerous, containing toxic materials and loose components that could be a choking hazard.3 The Anti-Counterfeiting Group indicate that over 40% of illicit products seized at UK borders are dangerous4. This year, brand owners and consumers alike should be even more vigilant with 2020 seeing a rise in the counterfeit goods market that coincides with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Counterfeits now account for approximately 3.3% of global trade, which equates to a staggering USD509 billion.5 Counterfeiters are opportunistic, taking advantage of the ever-expanding online marketing events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Amazon Prime Day, and often targeting products most popular or relevant in the current market. Brand owners have seen this kind of opportunism in recent months with a rise in the sale of counterfeit medical and pharmaceutical products. According to EUROPOL’s report, ‘Viral Marketing: Counterfeits, substandard goods and intellectual property crime in the COVID-19 pandemic’, organised crime groups distributing counterfeit goods have rapidly switched their focus to products such as medical equipment, pharmaceutical products and home COVID-19 test kits. The recent boom in e-commerce due to COVID-19 is also predicted to have added GBP5.3 billion to the UK market in 2020.6 A combination of national lockdowns and the public’s rising awareness of the need for social distancing has meant that people are opting more than ever to purchase products online.7
With Christmas approaching and consumers swapping the high street for online shopping this year, we are likely to see another shift by counterfeiters towards consumer products in an attempt to take advantage of the ever-increasing online traffic. Earlier this month, Lancashire Trading Standards seized a million pounds worth of counterfeit products after a series of test purchases of products sold on eBay confirmed the goods to be fake.8 With the sheer quantity of counterfeit products flooding the market, 89% of which are being imported from China, it is an impossible task for organisations such as Trading Standards and the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) to tackle the sale of these products alone.
Being aware of the increased risk is just the first step towards preventing the sale of counterfeit products. Kilburn & Strode can help brand owners ensure that only genuine products make their way to people’s stockings this Christmas. Our full service, combining monitoring software from Diginius with Kilburn & Strode’s established enforcement service, offers a unique combination of knowledge and expertise aimed at tackling online counterfeiters whatever your business.
Please get in touch for advice on keeping your brand safe this Christmas and beyond.