File photo: African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – About 30% of consumers are unknowingly buying fake goods when making online purchases, according to the Global Online Shopping Survey.

The survey says counterfeiters are cashing in on this growing form of shopping as many see counterfeiting as a harmless and victimless crime, but this is not the case.

“It has far-reaching consequences and negatively affects brands, consumers and the economy at large. From a brand point of view there is the loss of revenue, loss of customer trust and loss of market confidence.

“For consumers, many are duped into buying fake goods (our research consistently shows that most shoppers would never intentionally buy a counterfeit product online), which means they’ve lost their money and could even be placing themselves at risk.”

The study added that as many as 45% of online shoppers are worried that they might by buying counterfeit goods, while 49% intentionally purchased fake goods.

“There is a counterfeit market for almost everything; from apparel and accessories, footwear and luggage, to cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, electronics and toys.

‘‘Fake cosmetics and pharmaceuticals can have a significant impact on health, while counterfeit electric goods and toys can pose a risk to health and safety.”

Paul Ramara, a partner at Spoor & Fisher, an anti-counterfeiting practice, said a large number of South Africans relied on online shopping.

“According to PayPal, almost 70% of all active online adults in South Africa made use of online shopping, spending an estimated R45.3billion till the end of 2018, with PayPal projecting that online stand to spend R62bn by 2020.”

He added that people should know that they may be assisting in the commissioning of crime when purchasing counterfeit goods.

“They should also know that they are part of a wider scheme funding organised crime, which is generally associated with human trafficking, drugs and the illegal firearm trade.

‘‘The trade in counterfeiting has an impact on society as a whole. According to the World Health Organisation 100 000 deaths a year are linked to the counterfeit drug trade.”

Ramara said South Africa was one of the few countries that had special legislation dealing with counterfeits.

“As recently as December 2018, there was a joint operation by different enforcement agencies working together with the City of Johannesburg where operations were conducted as part of operation Buya Mthetho, where for example goods to the value of R18million were seized in one day.”