Counterfeiters and the sellers of fake goods are more and more likely to get away with it, according to figures from the federal economy ministry released to CD&V MP Leen Dierick.
Last year the office dealing with counterfeit goods received 695 complaints, 23% more than 2019 and 30% more than 2018.
But enforcement is not keeping up. Last year there were 378 raids on factories, warehouse and even shops – the lowest number in six years. And the number of sanctions handed out was the lowest in a decade, while the quantity of fake goods seized in 2020 was half the total for 2019: €8.2 million compared with €16.4 million.
Not unexpectedly, Covid-19 was largely to blame.
“Markets and fairs, where a lot of counterfeit goods are traded, remained closed, and the shops were closed for a long time,” said Chantal De Pauw, spokesperson for the finance ministry.
“In addition, the inspectors were also given the extra task of checking corona measures at companies.”
The sanitary measures had no effect on the hunt for online sales of fake goods, however. Fraudulent webshops are a constant problem, no sooner shut down than they spring up again under another name.
The ministry has therefore taken to the proactive screening of domain names, where applications can only be approved if the applicants fulfil all of the conditions on identity, registration and so on.
One place where the figures of seized fakes were up was at the borders, where customs officers at ports and other entry points seized 1.1 million articles twice as many as in 2019, largely due to the explosion in shipments of counterfeit cigarettes.
According to a study by the European intellectual property office in 2019, the damage to the Belgian economy caused by counterfeiting was €1.5 billion, or the equivalent of €133 for every person in the country. In addition, it cost more than 8,000 jobs.
“Counterfeit products are a plague on our economy,” Dierick told De Standaard. “They steal thousands of jobs from honest producers and traders. In addition, they also affect consumers, who end up with false and often inferior products, sometimes even with safety risks.”