Canadians at risk as counterfeit goods sneak through customs
Canada is losing the war against fake goods, and it's already cost a few people their lives, according to the founder of the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network.
Lorne Lipkus says customs officials simply don't have the powers or tools they need to stem the tide of low-quality, brand-name knock-offs slipping into the country each year, from the industry.
"It's pretty bad," Lipkus, who founded the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, told CTV's Your Morning on Thursday. He says the $600 billion global counterfeiting industry’s reach in Canada is growing, with "anything and everything" being copied for a quick profit. These items can be found in virtually every major city, where they're sold in every place from retail stores, to warehouses to flea markets.
"They're likely making more money than the real companies, because they're not paying for the quality necessary for the product," Lipkus said of the counterfeiters.
A pair of knock-off Nikes or bogus Birkenstocks might not sound like a big deal, but the range of counterfeited goods is not limited to clothing. Lipkus says there have been a number of injuries, and even a few deaths, associated with other counterfeit goods featuring shoddy wiring, for example, or fake pharmaceuticals. Many look like the genuine items they are purported to be, he says, but they are not up to standards.
In 2007, for instance, a B.C. woman died after using counterfeit sedatives she ordered online.
"People are dying because they don't know and they're not being careful," Lipkus said.
He lays part of the blame at the feet of the federal government, which he says is not being aggressive enough. He says many countries where a lot of the counterfeiting takes place, including China, are doing a better job than Canada at cracking down on the problem.
"You could pick almost any country in the world, and their laws seem to be stronger than ours," he said.
He adds that spotting counterfeits doesn't seem to be a "priority" at the Canadian border.
Canada introduced new legislation in 2015 to allow border agents to detain suspected fake goods for inspection. The new legislation also allowed brand names to work with border agents to identify fake goods, and to provide guidelines for how to spot bogus items.
However, counterfeit seizures have actually dropped since the law was introduced, with only 36 recorded since 2015.
The RCMP was in charge of seizing goods prior to 2015. They confiscated $7.7 million worth of fake goods in 2005, and $38.1 million worth of counterfeit products in 2012.
Thirty-one of the items seized under new legislation in 2015 were worth an estimated total of less than $600,000.
"We have new legislation at the border that unfortunately doesn't seem to be being used very much," Lipkus said.
Fake goods account for 1.9 per cent of global imports, according to a 2008 study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.