Product Counterfeiting Puts Consumer Safety At Risk

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Underwriters Laboratories Plays Key Role in Global Anti-Counterfeiting Efforts

Counterfeiters cashing in on consumer goods go beyond fake Fendi purses and Rolex watches to make their money. Today’s counterfeiters are ripping off everything from electronics to pharmaceuticals to toothpaste.

Product counterfeiting is a thriving multi-billion dollar global industry. It is highly profitable and the risks of significant legal consequences are low. The profits of product counterfeiting have been shown to fund other organized criminal activities.

For consumers, it means increased health and safety risks, purchasing inferior products, and job loss. In the United States alone, it is estimated that the crime of counterfeiting has caused the loss of more than 750,000 jobs.

"As a world leader in product safety testing, UL understands its responsibility to take counterfeiters to task," said John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager, Underwriters Laboratories (UL). "About 21 billion UL Marks appear on products entering the marketplace each year. Based on our experience, only a small fraction are potentially counterfeit. But even one counterfeit UL Mark is too many given the consumer safety risk."

Impact of counterfeiting

“Counterfeiters will copy and sell anything that turns a profit without regard to quality, safety or the law,” said Brian Monks, anti-counterfeiting operations vice president, UL. “They’re criminals, and everyone feels the pinch — consumers, manufacturers, retailers, communities and entire economies.”

For consumers, the biggest threat is personal safety. Products are rigorously tested according to strict UL requirements, being evaluated for potential risk of fire, shock, and/or personal injury. Products are not certified until they meet established standards. Because products bearing counterfeit certification marks have not undergone a testing and certification process, they can present potential safety hazards to the end-user.

For retailers, the sale and distribution of counterfeit products has legal risks, regardless of whether sold with intent or without any knowledge. If a consumer suffers an injury, the retailer may be the only traceable company associated with the distribution of the counterfeit product, exposing them to potential legal liability. Additionally, retailers can incur additional expenses by paying for inferior products, and then complying with warranty claims or recalls.

Legitimate manufacturers that invest in the quality of their products can lose more than sales if their products are counterfeited; their brands’ image and reputation also suffer. Additionally, these manufacturers incur costs to protect and enforce their intellectual property rights.

“Our efforts focus on thwarting the growing global threat of product counterfeiting to the U.S. economy, the global business community and consumers,” said Monks.

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