BANGKOK – Chanel handbags, G-Shock watches and Gucci sneakers are some of the many counterfeit products available to be purchased online in Southeast Asia, one of the main sources of fake goods in the world.
Authorities in the region work against the clock to fight counterfeiting networks, although fake products can still be seen regularly in street markets and shops. Increasingly, they are also found on websites and social media.
A search for “Balenciaga sneakers” on the online shopping site Lazada, owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, returns more than 2,000 results with fake items priced from around $14 in Thailand, the Philippines or Vietnam. The authentic versions cost more than $900.
In Indonesia, where counterfeiting generated more than $4.3 billion in losses to the local economy in 2014, fake products are on sale on e-commerce platforms as Tokopedia and Bukalapak, leaders in the archipelago.
FROM FAKE LOUIS VUITTON HANDBAGS TO MEDICINES
Fake Louis Vuitton items, Nike caps, and even medicines can be found on social media websites as Facebook and also in street markets such as Patpong, in the heart of a red-light district in Thai capital Bangkok.
Although the majority of counterfeit goods in the world are manufactured in China, Southeast Asian nations are also both a big source and transit country in the international market, including for fake medicines, toys and cosmetics, which pose serious health risks.
In a report released last April, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime stated that the counterfeit goods market, excluding fraudulent medicines, is estimated to generate illicit revenues of approximately $33.8-35.9 billion annually in Southeast Asia.
COUNTERFEIT PRODUCTS IN MALLS
“We used to have more than ten notorious markets in Thailand, but it has gone down to one or two. So, in our assessment, (the protection of intellectual property) must be better than before (the current government),” Thailand’s Department of Intellectual Property chief Thosapone Dunsuputra told EFE at MBK, a shopping mall in central Bangkok teeming with tourists looking for bargains.
Thosapone said the Thai government has ramped up enforcement measures and introduced new laws to protect intellectual property rights, while also strengthening cooperation with online companies such as Lazada and Facebook to curb counterfeit products on the internet.
In September, Thai authorities destroyed more than 10 million confiscated fake items, including garments, bags, mobile phones, DVDs, glasses, cosmetics and 9 million cigarettes.
“MBK used to be on the list of notorious markets, but it’s not now,” Thosapone said.
However, two floors below inside the mall, fake-logo T-shirts, shoes and caps are openly displayed in several shops.
“Yes, it’s fake,” a seller said when asked about a Supreme T-shirt, before adding that the copy was “grade A” quality.
BIG LOSSES IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE
The European Union loses millions of euros and hundreds of jobs as a consequence of the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods, which represents 6.8 percent of EU imports from third countries. The bloc currently leads two projects in Southeast Asia to cooperate with local governments to protect intellectual and industrial rights.
Thiago Guerreiro, a representative from the European Union Intellectual Property Office in Bangkok, told EFE that more countries recognize the crucial role of intellectual property rights protection for the economy, but problems persist in areas such as customs controls and prevention.
The international trade of counterfeit and pirated products, which has increased in recent years, amounts to 3.3 percent of world trade, with important production and transit centers in countries such as Argentina, Chile, China, Indonesia, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and Venezuela, among others.
LACK OF AWARENESS
Awareness of fake items or illegal downloads on the internet – also rampant in the region – is another pending subject.
Meanwhile, back in Patpong, tourists stroll alongside the many stands displaying fake garments.
“I bought a (fake) bag for a friend,” said a Czech tourist, who acknowledged she worries about counterfeit medicines, but not so much about fake clothes or accessories.