Seizures of counterfeit merchandise at U.S. borders have grown 10-times over the past two decades. The total worth of seized goods, if they’d been real, stretched nearly 1.4 billion dollars in 2018. Most are arriving from China or Hong Kong. The growth of e-commerce has fueled counterfeiting around the world. Amazon said it checked more than 3 billion suspected fake listings from its marketplace in 2018. The OECD says counterfeit goods value more than 3 percent of all global trade. While some consider the sale of illegal products could result in more than 5.4 million net job losses worldwide by 2022.
Counterfeit goods are illegal copies of products preserved under intellectual property regulations. Sellers try to deceive consumers into buying imitation goods by using logos, symbols, and features that identify specific brands. Selling counterfeit products is against the law in the U.S.
Counterfeits arrive in all shapes and sizes. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, The most common counterfeit things are garments and accessories, watches and jewelry, footwear, and consumer electronics. Customer products and pharmaceuticals also build up a big share of counterfeit goods. These are especially critical because they pose health and safety hazards. In 2018, Europol caught 13 million doses of counterfeit drugs varying from opioids to heart medications worth more than $180 million. The agency said it’s seen a surge in counterfeit medicine in recent years.
The Department of Homeland Security published a report saying the growth of e-commerce has increased the problem of counterfeit trafficking and puts U.S. companies and entrepreneurs in danger. Rising e-commerce sales have driven a surge in shipments of little packages. There were 161 million fast mail shipments in 2018 and 475 million packages sent through international mail.
Boulder, Colorado-based Nite Ize is another organization that has suffered from counterfeiting. And it’s fighting back. It said it eliminated 75,000 counterfeit listings from online marketplaces in 2019. In 2018, U.S. customs agents intercepted a shipment of 300 counterfeit Nite Ize accessories that had been marketed through Amazon by sellers. Amazon has been supporting other tech and financial firms to try to get more knowledge about the fakers’ identities.
China promised to take steps to lower the number of counterfeits produced in the country as part of the phase one trade alliance with the U.S. Some still say China will only take the issue severely once businesses in the country experience the costs of counterfeiting themselves. Some businesses say e-commerce programs need to be held more responsible. Right now, e-commerce companies aren’t usually responsible for counterfeits sold by a third party on their platforms. In Amazon’s case, more than half of the total commodities sales come from third-party sellers.
To battle the counterfeit issue on the Amazon website, The Company started Project Zero in 2019, which allows brands to eliminate counterfeits from the marketplace. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba started an anti-counterfeiting alliance in 2017 after extensive criticism about fake goods on its platforms. In January 2020, President Trump approved an executive order that tries to prevent counterfeiting on e-commerce websites.
Consumers also play a role in decreasing the sale of counterfeits. Officials say counterfeit signs include misspellings on the packaging, bad reviews, and discount prices.