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More young Europeans are buying counterfeit goods, says report

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Youth Scoreboard via EUIPO

Young Europeans are buying more counterfeit products and continue to access pirated content. In a 2022 study of people aged 15-24 across the EU by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), findings show 37 percent of young people bought one or several fake products intentionally in the last 12 months. This is up from 12 percent in 2016.

Today's young citizens are digital natives and engage with intellectual property everyday, notes the report. One of the keys to changing attitudes and behaviours is to first understand what drives young people when deciding where to source online digital content or physical goods, when they are faced with the alternatives of respecting or ignoring the associated IP rights. Price and availability remain the main factors for buying counterfeits and for digital piracy, says the report.

52 percent of respondents bought at least one fake product online over the last twelve months, of which 37 percent intentially and unintentionally. Clothing and accessories scored the highest for intentional counterfeit purchase at 17 perent, followed by footwear (14 percent), electronics (13 percent) and cosmetics (12 percent).

As per two previous studies in 2016 and 2019, price remained the motivating factor for intentional purchases. Conversely, 27 percent did not care if a product was a fake while 24 percent thought there was not different between genuine and counterfeit goods.

Affordability of original products the main problem

One third of respondents said they would not buy counterfeit products if these were affordable. Dissuading users from paying for fake goods or downloading illegal content would be deterred if knowing the risks of not having a guarantee of purchase or being infected by computer malware or having to deal with stolen payment details. If the goods of the counterfeit products was poor, 31 percent surveyed said they would stop.

Effects of Covid

Online shopping surged during Covid, which the report cites is one of the reasons in the increase in counterfeit goods being intentionally bought online. Greece is the country with the highest counterfeit purchases (62 percent) followed by Latvia (46 percent), Spain (45 percent), Finland and Poland (44 percent), Ireland and Belgium (43 percent) Lithuania (43 percent) Netherlands and Malta (41 percent). Czechia and Slovakia had the lowest intentional fake product purchases as 24 percent and 26 percent.

Males were more likely than females to buy fake goods (40 percent versus 34 percent) and neither income nor education level had much variance between the sexes. While the UK was not included in the study, a similar survey of UK IPO found 11 percent mentioned recommendations from influencers as a motivating factor to purchase intentional counterfeits.

While France had one of the lowest levels of intentional fake buying, users in the survey did say purchasing counterfeits was a protest against big brands (15 percent versus 10 percent on average).

Participants who intentionally bought fake goods where often informed by peers and friends and made them through a variety of channels, including the Chinese e-commerce giant AliExpress, Vinted, china-gadgets.de, Wish, Allegro and OLX. Purchases through apps were used less frequently.

Difficult to spot fakes online

Many fake products are shown identical to genuine items on websites, however upon receipt of bought goods users noted quality issues such as inferior finishing or functioning. Those who had a negative experience, i.e. receiving a sub-standard product, where more cautious about future purchaces or would stop buying fakes altogether, said the report.

The survey questionnaire in 2022 was the same as in 2019, albeit shortened, so that quality findings could be calculated.

To read the full findings and report go to www.euipo.europa.eu.

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