Luxury goods brands such as Chanel, Gucci and Marc Jacobs have long fought a battle to keep ripoffs out of stores, but now retailers of are fighting more mundane fakes.
Counterfeit goods seized on entry to Australia include washing powder, beer, toothpaste and barbecue chicken bags.
According to a recent report in The Age, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service seized more than 500,000 suspected counterfeit goods in the last financial year.
The items, brought into Australia by cargo ship and mail, had an estimated retail value of over $43 million.
Among the 2012-13 seizures were 43,200 bottles of beer in Western Australia in March 2013, and more than 40 tonnes of counterfeit OMO-labelled washing powder in Sydney in October 2012.
The total number of counterfeit seizures this year is not yet available, however the most recent seizures, which occurred in October 2013, were of more than 110,000 barbecue chicken bags and about 229,000 stationery sets, Customs said.
Anthony Romeo, a Sydney-based private investigator at Lyonswood Investigations and Forensic Group, is often hired by law firms who represent large brands to track down these fraudulent products.
Generally, the biggest giveaway is the price. If the price is too cheap, you’ve got to wonder why
He says that counterfeit goods are becoming increasingly difficult to spot, so skilled are the counterfeiters.
“Sometimes what you might call the original is made in the same country of origin as where the knock-offs are coming from, so it’s very hard to tell sometimes,” Mr Romeo says.
You are most likely to be caught out by fakes at markets, discount stores and online.
“The difficulty of buying online is that it’s not tangible,” Mr Romeo says. “You can’t see it, touch it, or inspect it. You don’t have anything other than a photograph to go on.”
Mr Romeo has clear advice for those wanting to avoid being stung by counterfeit goods – pay the right price.
“Generally, the biggest giveaway is the price. If the price is too cheap, you’ve got to wonder why,” he says.
If you’re buying in person, make sure the seller is reputable and check the quality of the items and of the packaging.
FAKE GOODS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Oakleys retail for up to $200 but counterfeits can be found for $10.
Violin and guitar strings
A fraction of the price, these strings bought online and pertaining to the real deal are a fraction of the quality.
A US doctor nearly died after he ordered diet pills online. The blue capsules were supposed to be an over-the-counter drug but contained sibutramine, a prescription drug the Food and Drug Administration had warned was linked to heart attacks and strokes.
Fake cancer drugs are also available online.
Be careful where you buy bottle openers, beer coolers, car seat covers and other products that purport to be sold by an alcohol brand.
Cheap perfume should be treated with caution.
It’s now very easy to replicate clothing, especially t-shirts, so keep an eye out.
Nike, Adidas and other big brand shoes are very popular with counterfeiters. Again, watch the price.
Australian Customs also seized fake batteries, telephone accessories and toothbrushes.