WARNING: The real truth about Fakes / Replicas and Ebay

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Most shoppers have been tempted to fake it. It might be a football shirt, a pair of sunglasses or a designer watch or handbag, but we are all attracted to replica goods.

And these days, it's so easy to buy a fake. There's probably a range of rip-offs on offer at your local weekend market. Some people go on a counterfeit shopping spree when they are on holiday. Or there's the internet, where several sites openly advertise the sale of fake goods.

Take Watchreplica.co.uk, for example. It's a slick operation and boasts the use of genuine Swiss parts. You can pick up a "high-quality replica" watch for a fraction of the price of the real thing. I browsed the site this week and could have bought a replica Patek Philippe Twenty-4 Black Dial ladies watch for £335. It's not cheap, but if you bought the genuine article, it would cost about £4,500.

Modern-day Del Boys
Most of us don't think the trade in counterfeit goods does anyone any harm. We imagine the market trader or the internet dealer as a lovable rogue, a modern-day Del Boy. We aren't even sure whether it's illegal to buy a fake watch or handbag. After all, some sites openly declare the goods are fake. You can also often make the purchase through a secure payment system such as Paypal, adding legitimacy to the process. But trading in counterfeits is a crime - and it's growing.

The best estimates suggest that the market for counterfeit products could account for as much as 10% of world trade. The International Chamber of Commerce values the fake industry at $600 billion a year, but the Anti-Counterfeiting Group puts the figure at closer to $1,000 billion. In the UK alone it probably totals £11 billion a year - that's more than the drugs trade in this country, which is valued at £8 billion.

Internet fuelling fake trade
The Internet is undoubtedly the fastest growing market for counterfeiters. It's like a great big car boot sale in the sky and almost impossible to police. In a single day in summer 2006, 15 brand owners removed £60,000 worth of fake goods and closed down nearly 5,000 auctions sites on eBay alone.
But does it really do anyone any harm? Law enforcement agencies are trying to persuade the public that the trade in counterfeit goods is not a victimless crime. First there's the damage to the genuine business, its reputation and its profits - and that can have more far-reaching consequences.

Ruth Orchard, director general of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, said: "Counterfeiting steals the originality, investment and hard work of creators, industry and retailers, threatening jobs and avoiding taxes which would fund new schools and hospitals."
Brand protection

No wonder the big-name firms are so desperate to protect their brands. For example, eBay was recently ordered to pay €40 million (£31.5 million) in damages to LVMH, the French luxury goods group, for selling fake handbags, perfumes and haute couture.

The ruling comes amid a flurry of court cases against eBay brought by a number of French firms. In another recent case, the auctioneer was ordered to pay damages of €20,000 to Hermès. Last year L'Oréal, the cosmetics group, began legal action against eBay in five European countries, including Britain, over the sale of counterfeit perfume.

The real problem with eBay fakes
Little public sympathy
You might not feel much sympathy for big businesses that charge high prices for their designer clothes and jewellery. But if you don't buy that argument, what about the potential risks to the person who buys the fake? A replica item might be poor quality and you are unlikely to get a refund if something goes wrong.
It could be worse. Fakes don't have to pass any safety checks, so they could be downright dangerous.
It has been known, for example, for counterfeiters to put urine in perfume and industrial strength methylated spirit in vodka. Fake children's toys are often unsafe, as are electrical items. And would you really trust a pair of fake designer sunglasses? In April last year, Felixstowe customs seized fake designer sunglasses worth £2.5 million from a container from China. And guess what? They had no UV protection.

Growing trade in fake medicine
When we think of fakes, most of us think of clothing, luxury items or computer software, but there is a growing market in counterfeit pharmaceuticals - with quite frightening implications.
Legitimate medicines are rigorously tested and their distribution strictly controlled - but the trade in counterfeit drugs recognises no such boundaries. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to take the chance that my replica medicine was more likely to kill than cure.

Child labour
The buyers of fake goods are not the only potential victims. Who do you think makes these replica items?
Experts warn that the counterfeit trade is based on sweatshops, virtual slavery and child labour. If that were not bad enough, it's now pulling in the serious criminals, who are attracted by the high profits and the low risks of the fake industry. After all, detection is difficult and penalties are mild.

"The lovable rogues fronting the evil trade are just the tip of a very nasty iceberg," said Anti-Counterfeiting Group director Orchard.
"The profits made from fakes fund other serious organised crimes worldwide, including drugs, guns and people smuggling."
There are even some suggestions that the counterfeit trade is linked to terrorism. So next time you think about snapping up a cheap fake, think about how much it really costs.

How to spot a fake
Fake goods come in all shapes and sizes. In a series of raids in February, police and trading standards officers seized 10,000 fake items from six addresses in Birmingham. They included watches, sunglasses, children's toys - even condoms - and were given a street value of £100,000.

Most of the goods come from China. Customs officials calculate that about 75% of seized fakes originate in China. But we also get our counterfeits from Russia, India and the Philippines.
If you are unsure whether an item is genuine, scrutinise the packaging. Labels are often poor-quality, with words misspelt. The logo might also be an inexact copy of the genuine article.
Look for genuine safety marks. Buy from a reputable company - and be particularly careful if you buy goods from car boot sales, markets, short lease shops, pubs and clubs.

                                                                                                             Brought to you by Mykiddistore

                                                                                                                                           Click to view Mykiddistore's Ebay Shop


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