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Survey Suggests China Not Just Biggest Manufacturer but Biggest Seller of Fakes Too

Updated: Nov 17, 2022 surveyed 1,494 consumers from across the world asking them why they buy fakes and how they could be kept from buying counterfeit.

While all income groups, educational categories, age levels and continents are represented, it is interesting to note that mostly men (67%) participated. This trend is identical to the previous year's survey, where 65% of the participants were men, suggesting that men may be buying more counterfeit than generally thought.

Fake goods are estimated to exceed $500 billion annually

According to OECD, 3.3% of world trade is now the trade in fake goods. Footwear made up almost a quarter of seized goods around the world, making it the most popular product copied by counterfeiters. But also apparel & accessories, leather goods, perfumes, electronic devices and watches. 

69% say they are good at identifying fakes

Most consumers (69%) consider themselves capable of identifying counterfeits. This is especially the case for Clothing, Accessories and Consumer Electronics. Only 10% admit they are unable to identify fakes. 45% of consumers doubt their ability to recognize fake Medicines and Toys while 23% say they have trouble with all categories.

92% of all consumers have bought counterfeits

Still, 70% of the consumers have bought a fake product in the past unknowingly or doubting the originality of the product. 21% admit to knowingly having bought fakes. Clothing, electronics and accessories are the most commonly purchased fake products.

Websites, not marketplaces, are the main purchase channel

The focus of brand protection agencies has shifted to online marketplaces in recent years. However, remarkably, websites (41%) are by far the most popular channel to buy counterfeits. This channel is followed by online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Alibaba (32%). 

Social media sites are named by 28% of consumers and 22% bought fakes from physical stores. Physical markets and stores are slowly losing popularity while buying directly via Social Media is on the rise (but not yet as big as websites).

39% think that the fakes are sold directly from China

When asked to name the originating selling country of their fake goods, 39% of consumers named China. This was followed by, surprisingly, the United States (9%) and India (6%). 

According to an OECD report, the majority of fake goods picked up in customs checks originate in mainland China and Hong Kong. Other major points of origin include the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Singapore, Thailand and India. However, a large number of consumers have named their own countries, indicating that they are being misled into believing that the fake goods they buy are originating in their own countries.

Consumers are dissuaded by fears, not ethics

Consumers buy fakes primarily as they believe that there will be no significant difference in quality (16%). Affordability (16%) is an equally big motivator for buying fakes and the feeling that the real brand is overpriced (12%) is also named.

Consumers are aware that counterfeits support crime and human exploitation. What however would keep consumers the most from buying counterfeit is the concern about the quality of the product (42%) and the belief that buying fakes online is not safe as their (financial) data may be misused (38%) and the product not being delivered (32%).

Regarding the fight against counterfeits, consumers think the lead should be taken by consumer protection agencies (49%) and not by international authorities such as Europol/Interpol (25%) and the EU/UN (24%).

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