Why It’s Hard to Spot Counterfeit Products
In 2017, European Union customs cracked down on 31 million individual fake products at various points on the border. Last year, United States (US) authorities seized USD500 million worth of fake handbags and fashion accessories in what was one of the largest seizures of goods in the country’s history.
While world governments are stepping up operations to weed out counterfeit goods from penetrating global markets, average consumers have found it increasingly harder to distinguish between fake and genuine products.
More than a decade ago, a fake Gucci bag, for example, could be identified from its material, subpar stitching and variation in colour from the original. Today, the differences are non-existent in large part due to advancements in counterfeit technology and consumers who seek to purchase original branded goods are finding it near impossible to them out from fake copies.
Counterfeit technology advancing in leaps and bounds
The advancement of technology in general has spurred the ability of counterfeiters to manufacture products, allowing them to accurately replicate the exact stitching, logo positioning, colour palettes and labeling found in the original. Moreover, factories manufacturing products for brands like Nike and Adidas are also producing their fake counterparts, using the same material and techniques explicitly reserved for the originals.
According to consumer advocate and industry watchdog the Counterfeit Report, 80% of fake goods are produced in China. With legislation and policy enforcement surrounding counterfeit production weak, the country’s factories are able to take advantage of profiteering from making fake clothing and bags with minimal legal consequences.
Simultaneously, the evolving nature of retail has given counterfeit sellers an advantage: the standardisation of e-commerce. Counterfeit vendors can more easily avoid the authorities by directly making their products available to consumers from anywhere in the world, while making it harder for buyers to verify the authenticity of the computer or training shoes they’re considering purchasing.
According to Google UK’s Head of Retail Jamie Murray Wells, the number of IP addresses is projected to increase twelve-fold by 2020—that’s at least 8 billion new devices connected to the internet, the bulk of which will be new users. The number of new internet users will only give momentum to online counterfeit vendors and reduce supply chain transparency, as information such as product origin can be falsified.
A need for political willpower and stronger policy enforcement
While track and trace solutions like Identem’s serialization and data-cloud platform can prevent the penetration of counterfeit goods into businesses’ supply chains, it is not a one stop solution for the sale of fake products online. World governments will also need to legislate and enforce more strict and dynamic policies to reduce the output of fake products and find innovative measures to more aggressively monitor their sale to consumers on the Internet.