The continuing fight against counterfeiting
By Virginia F. Bodmer-Altura
Worldwide actions are under way to fight against counterfeiting of products, services and cyber criminality. Counterfeited products amount to over USD 500 billion yearly. The newest annual report from the EU RAPEX brings to light that textiles and fashion items represent still again in 2011 the majority or 27 % (32 %) of notifications by product category and by far the top of numbers of action with 423 of a total of 839
The 2011 activities of EU RAPEX
In 54 % of all RAPEX notifications the country of origin of the notified products was China, including Hong Kong, 19 % (17 %) concerned products originating from the 27 EU member States and three EFTA countries and 8 % of the notifications contained no information of the country of origin of the notified product. The brand and type, number of models were indicated only in 84 % of the products notified in 2011. Chemical risks remain unchanged with 19 % of all notifications.
136 notifications by RAPEX measures were adopted by customs authorities and they represent 15 % of the 922 compulsory measures taken, mainly rejection of imports. Compulsory measures amounted to 60 %, voluntary measures to 38 % and compulsory and voluntary measures to 2 %. From 2100 notifications 98 % or 2059 were responded and concerned products with serious risks, 19 reactions concerned products with lower risk levels and 22 reactions were sent for information only. The number of actions varied between one and 17 and more than 45 notifications received at least 10 reactions. The reactions regarding clothing, textiles and fashion items amounted to 64 or 3 % in EU 27 member states and the three EFTA countries. China was indicated as the country of origin and 65 % or 11 notifications were issued, clothing, textiles and fashion items had a share thereof of 12 % or two notifications.
New EU study on childcare articles
The EU Commission funded a study on childcare articles and revealed that amongst the products concerned are children’s shoes, bibs, soft slings, bay feeders and nursery pillows.
The EU RAPEX cooperation with China
In November 2011 a meeting of the working group on consumer products/market surveillance established a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the EU Commission’s Health and Consumers Directorate-Generals and Chinese AQSIQ General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. The MoU was established in China when both authorities exchanged information on consumer product safety issues, such as market surveillance, traceability, standardisation, etc. and has led to some tangible results.
The RAPEX-China-online system was established in September 2006 and facilitates regular and rapid transmission of data between the EU and Chinese product safety administrations. The EU Commission provides the Chinese authorities with information on consumer products originating from China which have been notified through RAPEX. AQSIQ has submitted 19 reports to the EU Health and Consumers Directorate-General on enforcement actions carried out under RAPEX notifications from September 2006 to October 2011. During the same period Chinese AQSIQ has investigated and, where necessary, adopted measures in relation to 1752 RAPEX notifications or in average 92 cases over a three month period.
The efficiency of the RAPEX-China depends mainly on the availability and correctness of information on responsible Chinese companies. In 423 or 24 % of 1752 RAPEX cases notified, AQSIQ was unable to find the responsible Chinese companies and thus could not adopt appropriate restrictive measures. AQSIQ reported in these cases that limited resources and lack of documents do not always allow national authorities to trace the origin of the product or that the information on the Chinese companies is incorrect or inaccurate or that Chinese company denies its role in the production or export of a notified product and does not keep any orders, contracts, invoices or other documents which could prove or disprove its involvement (!). Also a change of address or bankruptcy of the responsible Chinese company has taken place or the reason of great complexity of the multiple trade relations of the responsible Chinese authorities was stated.
From the total of 1752 notifications 985 or 56 %, AQSIQ adopted measures, in 531 cases or 30 % export was stopped either by AQSIQ or by the manufacturer, in 213 cases or 12 % supervision was enforced, in 214 cases or 12 % corrective actions were taken and in 27 cases or 2 % other action taken. In 767 cases or 44 % AQSIQ did not adopt measures, in 426 cases or 24 % could the manufacturer not be found, in 58 cases or 4 % there was a differing risk assessment by the Chinese authorities and in 281 cases or 16 % other reasoning was given.
The first website address below reveals the latest statistical data on RAPEX.
The activities by ISO International Organisation for Standardisation
Hosted in May 2012 by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Nadi, Fiji, the ISO Committee on consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO) organised a meeting with over 145 representatives from consumer organisations, public authorities as well as metrology (the science of measurement) and on the subject ”How do consumers know what they are getting?”. Consumers around the world, but particularly in poor and remote areas, became victims of double labelling, imitation, incomplete information, deceptive packaging, false claims as well as misleading or inadequate measurements. Attorney General and Minister for Industry and Trade of Fiji, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum stated at his opening address: “The Pacific region has been an easy target for traders exporting low cost, sub-standard and counterfeit products, and it is not just an issue of unscrupulous companies and marketing tactics, but it is also one of enforcement, adequate resources and, of poverty and demand creates supply”.
There exists a lack of transparency, manipulating technology to distort results in measuring or simply by using inappropriate quantities. The ISO solutions are the standard size of packaging and requirements, clear and appropriate quantity labelling, unit pricing and quality marks and traceability.
The ISO Committee on conformity assessment (ISO/CASCO) has developed numerous standards and guides on testing, inspections and management system implementation to ensure that consumers know what they are getting. For those companies that are too recent in business, too small or too remote, good conformity assessment, preferably against an International Standard can improve consumer confidence, stated Olivier Peyrat, Director General of AFNOR, ISO member for France and he added that the implementation of ISO 26000 on social responsibility could enhance consumer trust.
Within the ISO system two ISO committees are decisive for the future development of standards to counter counterfeiting, namely ISO7/TC 246 Anti-counterfeiting tools (published), ISO/TC 247 Fraud countermeasures is currently working on two standards: A security management system for fraud countermeasures and controls and an anti-counterfeiting track and trace method using unique identifier numbering. The newest published ISO Standard is 12931: 2012 Performance criteria for authentication solutions used to combat counterfeiting of material goods.
The propelling factors of counterfeiting
At the cited ISO meeting it was concluded that counterfeiting and fraud are propelled by a rising volume of global trade and e-commerce, a lack of consumer awareness and information. Further there is a growing involvement of organised crime and there are existing only minimal and inconsistent enforcements and penalties. In addition, consumer demand and economic pressures are driven by high prices and poverty.
Graeme Drake, speaking on behalf of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), indicated that non-compliance and counterfeiting are increasing and becoming more difficult to detect. UNECE is working to affront and counter these trends by making recommendations to governments and by developing a database of market surveillance authorities, promoting best practice and raising awareness. He stressed the importance of collaborating with ISO and invited an increased cooperation with ISO/COPOLCO.
To complete the picture on what America is undertaking to counter fraud and piracy, please refer to TextileFuture News of July 23: “Free trade agreements are no weapon against fraudulent acts”. In addition the U.S. is working closely with EU authorities especially against piracy in Asia and China in particular.
It is noteworthy to state also that WTO the World Trade Organization and WIPO the World Intellectual Property Organization are also curing measures to fight fraud in trade, patents and trademarks.