TVOntario’s flagship public affairs program The Agenda Tuesday (8 pm EST) will examine how the rise of online shopping has also led to greater sales and distribution of counterfeit products – a topic also the focus of recent Consumers Council of Canada research.
The episode is titled Amazon’s Counterfeit Problem and pledges to explore why it is getting harder to tell what’s real and what’s fake online, as Canadians are on track to spend $64.5 billion online this year. The Consumers Council report Consumer Attitudes and Their Role in Reducing the Impact of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods and Services concluded that consumers find it difficult to identify the perils of buying counterfeit goods and pirated media, and industry intellectual property protection campaigns don’t help them.
The research included a 2,000 person national web survey and focus groups. It noted that consumers do not have the same ability to examine the goods, packaging and labelling that could help them determine authenticity. It noted that problematic goods pose serious risks to consumers, such as fake pharmaceuticals and forged safety certifications. Among the report’s recommendations:
• A single body to co-ordinate anti-fraud initiatives by governments across Canada.
• Business, government and consumer organization joint engagement to address marketplace risks born by consumers and facilitate consumer education.
• Governments and business should provide sustainable funding to consumer organizations to play an independent role in curbing marketplace fraud.
The report also urged stronger enforcement by governments of general consumer protections.
That theme was also an important part of a second 2019 Consumers Council research report. Super Complainers: Greater Public Inclusiveness in Government Consumer Complaint Handling noted the trend of Canadian regulators to reduce or even withdraw from pro-active inspections. In that report’s survey of 2,000 Canadian consumers, public confidence was low (84%) that government complaint handling would be helpful in distant transactions. Consumers supported measures that would reduce their risk in distant transactions such as a national consumer complaint data bank, international cooperative agreements and frequent issuance of consumer complaint trends.
A third Consumers Council of Canada report examined another element of consumer protection in online transactions. Consumer Redress, Chargebacks and Merchant Responses in Distant Transactions examined how remedies to different problems in distant (online or telephone) transactions can differ by how the consumer chose to pay for the purchase. It discussed how the protections offered by credit card chargeback programs compare to online dispute resolution choices, and how poorly chargeback protection is disclosed to consumers.
The program will be rebroadcast at 11 pm, and then available through TVO’s online archives.
Canadian consumers find it difficult to identify perils of buying ‘counterfeit’ goods and ‘pirated’ digital media, and industry intellectual property protection campaigns don’t help them, report finds.
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.
The Consumers Council of Canada in conjunction with the Canadian Consumer Initiative has cautioned consumers that the Government of Canada's proposed Copyright Modernization Act, Bill C-32, permits existing and new consumer use rights such as backing up content, time- and format-shifting to be taken away by digital locks and license agreements.
Bill C-32 creates a prohibition on removing or circumventing “technical protection measures” (TPMs) such as those copying and regional restrictions commonly found on DVD discs. Consumers cannot legally remove or circumvent TPMs even if the consumer’s use is otherwise protected in the bill, such as for creating a backup copy of a DVD in case of scratching, theft, fire or other reason.
“Without an exception to technical protection measures to exercise their copying and backup rights, this Bill is a dead letter for consumers” contended John Lawford, Counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
Geneviève Reed, Head of Consumer Representation and Research at Option consommateurs concurred: “Media companies will very likely add TPMs which restrict those rights, just as they now do for DVDs. Since consumers are violating the law if they break the TPMs for otherwise lawful uses, there will be confusion and a whole army of consumer copyright criminals created virtually overnight.”
CCI notes that Bill C-32 has positive features for consumers that, absent TPMs, allow consumers to back up music and videos, to time-shift TV programs with PVRs, and to format-shift music from CDs and legal downloads to MP3 players, as well as some innovative rights that reflect how consumers actually use content, such as fair use exceptions for
parody and satire, and a “remix” right for private media creations such as using commercial songs over family slide shows or amateur YouTube videos.
“Unfortunately, these promising consumer rights all are subject to the overriding control of the media companies that put the digital locks on content” said Anthony Hémond, Telecommunications, Broadcasting, Internet and Privacy Analyst at Union des consommateurs, “As a result, consumers most likely will be paying more for entertainment products, as media companies can effectively dictate when, where and how consumers use their content.”
"The legislation's protection of digital locks will be detrimental to Canadian consumers and eliminate many of their rights with respect to copyright. It opens the door to the loss by consumers of the kind of durable lifetime access to purchased content traditionally associated with books, for example" noted Don Mercer, President of the Consumers Council of Canada. "It could make the transfer of access to content to inheritors more difficult and less likely. Consumers' ability to unlock the content they purchased is not overtly protected in the legislation."
The Canadian Consumer Initiative includes four major Canadian consumer organizations: the Consumers Council of Canada, Option consommateurs, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Union des consommateurs.