x

Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Oman's battle against fake goods

Counterfeit items confiscated by police so far this year hits record high

Buyer beware: shopping in places like the Mutrah souq in Muscat is fun but the goods on offer may not be all they seem.  Ali Haider / EPA
Buyer beware: shopping in places like the Mutrah souq in Muscat is fun but the goods on offer may not be all they seem. Ali Haider / EPA

Taher Al Sajjad died last month in a road accident in Muscat when his car ploughed into a concrete road-divider and caused the death of another driver.

The police report said that the brakes on Mr Sajjad's car had failed. The report also revealed the brakes were not original parts from the manufacturer of the car.

“The garage that fixed his brakes put in fake parts and they failed when he tried to stop to avoid running over a man who was crossing the road,” his brother Kareem, told the National.

Oman is struggling to contain the number of fake goods entering the country and coming on to the market. Police raided a number of business establishments all over the country and in the first nine months of this year, hit a record high by confiscating counterfeit goods worth $80 million, compared to $65 million in the same period in 2016.

The fake goods seized by the police include car parts, handbags, perfumes, jewellery, shoes, watches, electronics and electrical items. The Sultanate introduced legislation in 2001 to curb trade in counterfeit goods and anyone caught selling replica consumer items faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 4,000 rials (Dh39,650). But the law appears to have had little effect.

Samiha Al Barwani knew something was not right when a shopkeeper offered to show her a Louis Vuitton handbag costing 75 rials (Dh735).

“It looked real and even smelled the same way. But when the shopkeeper had to go to the back of the room to get it, then I got suspicious," she said. "I asked him why it was not displayed in the shop? I was not convinced by his answer and so l decided not to buy it.”

She also reported the shop to the police.

The police have given no explanation for rise in the seized counterfeit goods this year but Saud Al Saidi, an intellectual property rights lawyer with Al Malik Law Firm in Muscat, said campaigns promoting better awareness are paying off.

“There is no evidence that there are more fake goods coming to the country than before. It is just the regular campaigns by the police are working to some extent. More people now report these incidents when they spot such items,” Mr Saidi told the National.

But the fake goods trade still thrives among unsuspecting customers or those who want to have luxury-type items but without the hefty price tag.

“When I buy a fake watch I know it is fake. The Rolex I have looks real and I bought it for a fraction of the price of the genuine one. I don’t really care. It serves the purpose I bought it for and the purpose is make people think I am wearing a real thing, ” said a young man who identified himself only as Hamed,

Fake goods enter the country illegally from the sea as well as over land borders.

“They are smuggled in on the boats and some come in trucks covered by legitimate merchandise. They come from the UAE, Iran, India and China. These smugglers arrange with their local partners based in Oman and this how they are sold here,” Mr Al Saidi said.

The Omani coastguard say it is difficult to patrol seaways which are constantly busy with hundreds of fishing boats and other vessels. Oman has the longest coastline in the region, stretching 1,700km from the UAE in the north to Yemen in the south.

“We have a very long coastline and we cannot search every vessel that passes or enters our country. We get some and some get away with it,” one coastguard official told The National.

The police have pledged to carry out more inspection raids and to continue responding to complaints from customers, the public and trademark owners to preserve their intellectual property rights.

Last month, the police seized fake goods worth 700,000 rials (|Dh6.94 million) in different parts of the country. Authorities said they destroyed hundreds of thousands of counterfeit cosmetics, mobile phones, cigarettes and other items in these raids. In some instances fake goods such as toys and clothes, are donated to poor children.