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EU - action against counterfeiting and piracy

Customs: Commission and Member States step up action against counterfeiting and piracy

Statistics just published by the European Commission show a significant increase in the amount of counterfeit and pirated articles seized at the EU's external borders in 2003. Customs officials seized almost 100 million of such articles in 2003 compared with 85 million in 2002, of an estimated value of one billion euros. Of particular concern in terms of consumer health and safety is the increase in the number of seizures of games and children's toys, with 12 million seizures representing a 996% increase over 2002. Seizures of food products and medicines increased in the same period by 77%. The trend in recent years of a move from smuggling luxury goods to smuggling more everyday products continued in 2003. While the compilation of statistics for 2004 has not yet been completed, the results so far demonstrate that the customs authorities of the new Member States have intercepted a significant amount of counterfeit goods.

"Counterfeiting and piracy increasingly involve children's toys, medicines and food products and this constitutes a real danger to consumers" said EU Taxation and Customs Commissioner László Kovács. "The customs authorities of the Member States are already working hard to combat this problem but we must take many more very concrete actions if we are to protect ourselves and the world from this threat to our safety and to our economy.

The 2003 statistics show that:

• There was an overall 9% increase in 2003 in the number of counterfeit and pirated goods seized by Customs at the external borders of the EU – 100 million compared to 85 million in 2002.

• The number of cases involved in these seizures increased by almost 41%.

• Counterfeit goods represent a growing threat to consumer health and safety. In this regard, the greatest increases in seizures compared to 2002 occurred with regard to counterfeit games and toys, with 12 million seizures constituting a 996% increase over 2002. Furthermore, there was a 77% increase in the number of seizures of counterfeit foodstuffs, alcohol and other drinks. Foodstuffs seized included sweets, waffles, chewing gum and even apples. Counterfeit Viagra has also frequently been found in commercial freights and in mail.

• Cosmetics and perfumes continued to be popular choices for counterfeiters, with an increase in seizures of 800% compared to 2002, as did CDs, DVDs and cassettes, with 33 million of such seizures (a third of the 2003 total) representing an increase of 172% over 2002.

• The counterfeit of luxury products continued the recent trend of becoming more marginal, as traffickers increasingly turn their attention to mass-produced items. Clothing, for example, represented only 4% of goods seized - a drop of 58% on 2002 - and watches and jewellery constituted less than 1%.

• 70% of the amount of counterfeit and pirated goods seized by customs authorities in 2003 originated in Asia

While the compilation of statistics for 2004 has not yet been completed, the results so far demonstrate that the customs authorities of the new Member States have been very active in this area since their accession on 1 May 2004. By way of example, Hungary seized approximately 300,000 face and body lotions in the first quarter, Malta seized 10,000 car parts, Lithuania intercepted 400,000 batteries, and Estonian customs intercepted 11 shipping vessels fully of counterfeit clothes.

For more information on the fight against counterfeiting and piracy, see:

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