A majority of the 41 million items seized during 2016 were foodstuffs, cigarettes, toys and household electronics. But the roughly 4.2 million fake items seized in the categories of perfume, cosmetics, shoes, apparel, accessories and watches were valued at a total of 378.8 million euros, according to the EU’s annual report on customs enforcement.
Value for the goods is based in the retail value of the products, had they been genuine.
The total number of seized goods rose by 2 percent during the year, with 80 percent coming from China, leaving the commission to characterize the country as the “clear leader when it comes to the provenance of fake goods.”
The number of articles detained decreased more than 30 percent at the borders of Greece, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the U.K., while the number of counterfeit goods increased significantly in 14 other EU member states, sometimes by more than five times the number in 2015.
Pierre Moscovici, the EU commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs, said “cooperation between law enforcement and authorities should be strengthened” in the region given the 2016 results, and called for an upgrade of the EU’s risk management systems to prevent more counterfeit goods from coming into the region.
“A high level of protection of intellectual property is crucial to support growth and create jobs,” Moscovici added. “Fake goods pose a real threat to health and safety of EU consumers and also undermine legal businesses and state revenues. Studies show that the EU is particularly exposed to imports of counterfeit products.”
This level of exposure comes from Europe’s proximity to main sources of counterfeit goods, including China, Hong Kong and countries in the Middle East, such as Iran, which on its own produced more than 40 percent of the apparel accessories such as belts, hats and gloves seized last year. The rise of counterfeit sales has also been tied to the increasing popularity of e-commerce.
The EU commission said 73 percent of all detentions involved products coming through courier and postal traffic and “are mainly consumer articles ordered via e-commerce like shoes, clothing and accessories.”
Watches were the biggest counterfeit category last year in terms of value, with 198,804 fake watches being seized and valued at 109.8 million euros. The fakes were most often destroyed by EU authorities. Counterfeit handbags and wallets followed toys coming in third, with 279,941 items seized totaling 69.9 million euros.
After those categories come perfume and cosmetics, of which 1.03 million items were seized last year valued at 55.1 million euros, athletic shoes with 531,433 items seized valued at 46.2 million euros, apparel with 1.69 million items seized valued at 44.9 million euros, eyewear with 268,992 items seized valued at 33.8 million euros and apparel accessories with 460,852 items seized valued at 10.6 million euros.
The EU isn’t alone in fighting against increasing imports of counterfeit goods. U.S. customs officials last year seized counterfeit goods valued at $1.4 billion, with apparel and accessories being the most-prevalent fake goods, according to government data.
On a global scale, the numbers are nearly unfathomable, with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimating last year that worldwide trade in counterfeit and pirated goods is worth $461 billion annually, with footwear and apparel at the top of the list.
A chart of the type of counterfeit goods seized by EU customs based on value.
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