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Consumer groups could help reduce dangers to consumers of counterfeit goods, pirated media

Aug 14, 2019 10:45 AM

Canadian consumers find it difficult to identify the perils of buying ‘counterfeit’ goods and ‘pirated’ digital media, and industry intellectual property protection campaigns don’t help them, new research by Consumers Council of Canada found.

The Council based this conclusion, found in its just-released report Consumer Attitudes and Their Role in Reducing the Impact of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods and Services, on a 2,000-person national web survey and focus groups conducted by Environics Research and on a review of academic literature and interviews with experts.

“Generally speaking, consumers set out to find a good deal when they shop and most of them don’t go looking for the kind of trouble that buying fake goods and pirated media can bring them,” said Consumers Council of Canada President Don Mercer. “But when consumers knowingly do so, their reasons can range from saving money to engaging in civil disobedience.”

The research found industry and government make little meaningful effort to work with consumer groups to address the growing presence of counterfeit and pirated goods in the marketplace. Trends reports indicate that trade in counterfeit and pirated goods has risen steadily in the last few years and now stands at 3.3% of global trade, according to a recent report by the OECD and the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office. Some sources claim this trade fuels organized crime and terrorism worldwide.

“Problematic goods are harming and sometimes killing Canadians, from fake pharmaceuticals to goods bearing forged safety certifications,” said Mercer. “Stronger enforcement by government of general consumer protections could take more counterfeits off the market, yielding better results for consumers and business and raising consumer consciousness of their risks associated with counterfeiting and piracy.”

The research found online sales are problematic because consumers do not have the same ability to examine the goods, packaging and labelling that would help them determine if a product is counterfeit as they do in a ‘bricks and mortar’ retail setting. However, it also found consumers encounter fraudulently presented goods in traditional retail settings.

Among the reports recommendations:

  • A single body to coordinate anti-fraud initiatives by governments across Canada
  • Engagement and partnership by business and government with consumer organizations to address related marketplace risks born by consumers and facilitate consumer education
  • Governments, in particular, and business should provide sustainable funding to consumer organizations to play an independent role in curbing marketplace fraud

Consumers Council of Canada has received funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations. The views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada or the Government of Canada. 

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