Information for the consumer on counterfeit products – what are they and what are our rights? – has been provided by the European Consumer Centre Malta.
“Within the international, European and national legislations, one can find various definitions for counterfeit products. The EU Regulation (EC) No 608/2013, defines counterfeit products as goods that are the subject of an act infringing the trademark without the authorisation to use such trademark, goods that are the subject of an act infringing a geographical indication in the Member State where the products are found and goods with any packaging or labelling that are subject of an act infringing a trademark or a geographical indication.
When buying counterfeit products, the consumer would be exposed to certain risks, linked mostly with health, safety, the environment and unfair competition. For example counterfeited cosmetics and perfumes that are often sold online may be considered as high-risk products and can be the reason behind many health issues such as allergies.
Medicines are also one of the products most counterfeited. In order to fight against fake medicines, the European Commission has developed a logo for pharmacies operating legally online in any EU Member State. Counterfeited products may pose a threat to the safety of the consumers.
For example an inferior, counterfeit replacement part in a car (such as airbags) may have an impact on the safety of the vehicle. If a product is safe and complies with all the EU standards, the product will be given the CE mark. However, unfortunately sometimes counterfeiters copy this mark with just a slight difference.
Moreover, companies that manufacture counterfeit goods are not always aware of the serious impact their deed will leave on the environment. When counterfeit products do not comply with the imposed health codes, safety regulations and environmental law, this makes it possible to sell goods at low prices.
Due to these cheap prices, the genuine companies will lose their consumers to the counterfeiters.
The EU has set out various laws in order to protect the consumers against counterfeited products. For instance, EU customs administrations have the authority to detain or even destroy counterfeited products that are bought online by consumers.
The ECC-Net has issued an online brochure in which it gives the consumers some tips on how to avoid buying counterfeit products: One should always identify and localise the trader before placing an order on an internet website.
The company’s name, geographical address and contact details should be available on the website so that it is easier for the consumer to check whether the company can be easily reached in case of any problems. Consumers should also search about the experiences of other buyers.
One can enter the name of an online shop into the internet search and this can lead him/her to internet forums where s/he can read some reviews. However, one must still be careful as certain comments; especially positive ones, can be fake.
The trust mark should also help consumers to identify if the website can be trusted. Under EU consumer and marketing laws, it is prohibited for a product to have such mark without obtaining the necessary authorisation for it.
Every website should also have clear and correct information on their website about consumer rights, for example information about the right of withdrawal. If such information is missing, one should be suspicious of the website. Another tip mentions the importance of using a secure means of payment, such as paying by credit card and avoiding money transfers.
A consumer living in an EU member state and buying from a seller within a member state or from a seller who is targeting EU consumers is protected by European laws. On the other hand, if the seller is located outside the EU, it may be difficult for the consumer to obtain his/her rights.
If the consumer inadvertently purchases a counterfeit product, s/he is advised to complain with the seller in writing. If the problem remains unresolved consumers may report the matter to the European Consumer Centre.”
This information has been provided by the European Consumer Centre Malta. The ECC-Net is a European network consisting of 30 European Consumer Centres, representing all EU Member States and also Iceland and Norway.
The network is co-funded by the European Commission and the EU Member States. In addition to assisting consumers in case of a complaint or dispute, members of the ECC-Net engage in joint projects in order to investigate specific business sectors. ECC Malta is hosted by the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA).
ECC Malta can be contacted by email on: firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone by calling on 21221901 or by calling personally at ‘Consumer House’, No. 47A South Str. Valletta.