A report published recently revealed that 63% of all EU customs seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods are of small parcels sent through postal or courier services.
The research, which was carried out by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), shows that although large container shipments still account for most counterfeit items in terms of volume and value, authorities are increasingly seizing small parcels.
According to the report, trade in counterfeit goods represents a “longstanding and growing, worldwide socio-economic risk” that threatens effective public governance, efficiency in business and the wellbeing of consumers.
While figures show that these small shipments tend to be in packages of ten or fewer items, over 50% of all global seizures of counterfeits sent by post contained just one item. Fake consumer goods including shoes, sunglasses and jewellery were among the list of items most likely to be sent in small parcels.
The report stated that small parcels used by counterfeiters for trafficking are shipped either through postal or express services. This creates “significant challenges” for customs authorities as, currently, only simplified documentation is required to send small volume items shipped by post i.e. a customs declaration with their shipments. The declaration is certified by the sender and is usually not verified which, according to the report, “creates scope for legitimate errors as well as fraud”.
Although progress has been made in implementing data exchanges between relevant authorities, the EUIPO’s report said that “much still needs to be done in this regard”.
To counter this, for example, the UK will introduce measures from January 2019 which will require individuals to provide electronic customs data when sending parcels to destinations outside the EU.
The analysis stated that while small shipments reduce the risk of bulk losses for traffickers in the event of interception, criminal groups are also becoming “adept at evading postal checks”.
To prevent interception, counterfeiters will import products into the EU in bulk via a member state believed to exercise laxer controls, before redirecting the parcels with an EU postal stamp or sticker.
Additionally, criminals are routing postal packages containing counterfeit pharmaceuticals via Canada, known for its high standards and quality. The report said this is a particular danger to consumers as it gives them a false sense of confidence in the product.
The executive director of the EUIPO, Christian Archambeau, described small parcel shipments of counterfeit goods as a “growing and worrying phenomenon”.
“Small parcel shipments sent via post or courier services are harder for customs officials to track and seize. We hope that these findings will be of use to policy makers as they devise methods to combat counterfeiting.”
He added: “This being said, the bulk of counterfeit imports into the EU comes mainly via containers and other maritime shipments. Our earlier joint research with OECD has shown that 2.5% of world trade, equivalent to €338 billion ($383.1 billion) per year and 5% of EU imports, is of counterfeits.”