x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Tougher penalties to combat trade in fakes

A number of tougher penalties, including fines and prison sentences, will help stem a rising tide of forged car parts, electronics and luxury goods.

Counterfeit glasses and perfume are on display at the exhibition.
Counterfeit glasses and perfume are on display at the exhibition.

ABU DHABI // A number of tougher penalties, including fines and prison sentences, will help stem a rising tide of forged car parts, electronics and luxury goods, authorities said yesterday. More than 11,000 fake goods have been seized this year in Abu Dhabi, more than double the number confiscated last year, but the laws need to be tightened to act as a better deterrent, said Abdullah al Hussein, director of commercial control at the Ministry of Economy.

"The current law needs some changes; it isn't sufficiently effective," said Mr al Hussein. "There is a draft being reviewed with increased fines and prison sentences for counterfeiting." There is currently no specific law against counterfeiting commercial goods. Instead, the issue is covered by federal laws on fraud and cheating in trade dealings, trademarks, copyright and consumer protection. The new regulation will "bridge gaps" and give more power to local government to impose fines and implement the law themselves, Mr al Hussein said.

Trade in counterfeit goods in the UAE is worth an estimated US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion) annually, according to the Ministry of Economy, and it is estimated that between 7 and 10 per cent of goods sold worldwide are fake. Federal Law No. 4 for combating fraud and cheating in trade dealings, which was drawn up in 1979, provides for a maximum jail term of two years and maximum fine of Dh10,000 if someone cheats a purchaser by delivering goods "different to what is contracted".

"The law is very old and needs some amendment," said Hamad al Nuaimi, the executive director of commercial affairs at Abu Dhabi's Department of Economic Development (DED). "It's not properly enforced." Details on the new regulations are expected to be announced today. More than 80 inspectors from the department, who have been trained with the help of multinational companies to identify forged items, carry out daily visits in the emirate.

The most commonly forged items are electronic goods, such as mobile phones, and car parts; more than 5,000 items, or 45 per cent of the total, confiscated this year fall into the latter category. "Counterfeiting of this kind of item is very dangerous," said Mr al Nuaimi. "When electrical items are forged there are no safety measures it could electrocute someone." Luxury goods labels are also an ongoing problem, with more than 3,000 items of clothing, shoes and accessories confiscated since the beginning of the year. Additionally, nearly 2,800 cosmetic items were seized.

The DED is running an exhibition at Marina Mall to educate the public in spotting illicit items. The exhibition, which shows 500 forged and real products side by side, will continue until Saturday. "The buyers are the victims and the ones being cheated by being given an inferior product," said Mohammed Omar Abdullah, undersecretary at the DED. "If they are more aware of how to recognise a counterfeit item they will be in a better position not to take any bad products, and if they don't buy, the [fakes] industry will die."

He urged all "concerned authorities" to work together to build up a better framework to combat forgeries. According to World Trade Organisation figures, GCC economies lose $18bn per year because of the trade in fake goods, with the Arab world losing $88bn. @Email:lmorris@thenational.ae