Instagram gratification: How social media is fueling the fake goods trade
Counterfeit products are becoming ever harder to control, and lax regulations don't help
It's becoming increasingly hard to tell the Fong Kong from the real deal online.
In the month that highlights the problem of counterfeit goods that have pervaded the world and South Africa, in particular, intellectual property law firm Spoor&Fisher believes the rise of the Internet and the lack of regulations have enabled digitally savvy counterfeiters to jump on the bandwagon.
It is estimated that by 2022, the total value of counterfeit and pirated goods will reach $2.81-trillion – more than the GDP of France.
The social media and luxury goods counterfeits study reveals that 20% of Instagram posts for luxury brands feature counterfeit or illicit products.
“While brands have found it easy to persuade online e-commerce sites like eBay and Amazon to crack down on counterfeit goods, their efforts are not as focused on social media. With big networks like Instagram offering market places to buy and sell products, social commerce scams are running riot online,” said Paul Ramara of Spoor & Fisher.Ramara said with the advent of social media,“things have changed drastically”.
“Social media is both an opportunity and a nightmare for brand holders. It is an opportunity because it has offered brand holders with another avenue to sell their goods.”
In March the South African Revenue Service made 320 busts in cases of counterfeit clothing‚ footwear and other goods, valued at hundreds of millions of rands.
Ramara said counterfeiters had become sophisticated and pirated almost anything from pharmaceuticals and food to clothing, bags and watches.
So who is bolstering the bank balance of counterfeiters?According to Ramara, there are two types of consumers who buy fake goods – those who do so unknowingly and the brand-conscious who willingly purchase fake.
“The latter group purchase counterfeit mostly because they cannot afford luxurious brands; therefore they settle for the alternative.
“Consumers need to understand that by purchasing counterfeit goods, they are indirectly funding an illicit industry.
“Among the things that consumers may need to consider is the fact that some counterfeit goods are produced in sweatshops run by organised crime.”
Legally the challenges are huge.
“We are dealing with unscrupulous, faceless individuals who conduct their operations from different parts of the world. An infringer and/or counterfeiter can open multiple accounts across different social networks using different identities.
“It is hard and a time-consuming exercise to track counterfeiters and successfully sue or prosecute them,” added Ramara.