BlackBerry the latest in flood of counterfeits

A fake version of Research in Motion's much anticipated BlackBerry 9900 smartphone is on sale in Dubai weeks before the genuine device is set to be launched in the UAE.

The fake BlackBerry phone, which is selling at Dubai's DragonMart, costs Dh367 compared with Dh2,599, the expected price of the real one.
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A fake version of Research In Motion's much anticipated BlackBerry 9900 smartphone is on sale in Dubai - weeks before the genuine device is set to be launched in the UAE.

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The copycat phone, which is selling for US$100 (Dh367.28) at Dubai's DragonMart Mall compared with Dh2,599 the real thing is expected to cost when sold by Etisalat, is the latest example of counterfeiting that has flooded the market for electronic goods in the UAE., a website for BlackBerry fans, showed pictures of the fake device at DragonMart just days after the real phone's official launch by RIM in Canada.

The Canadian company is hoping its latest phone range will help it to compete against Apple's iPhone and Google Android devices, which dominate the smartphone market and pressure RIM's share price.

The sale of counterfeit goods, from designer apparel to fake car parts, is not uncommon in the UAE despite efforts by the authorities to tackle the problem.

As a major re-exporter of goods globally, markets in Dubai such as Karama and DragonMart are flooded each week with fake handbags, fashion and the latest technology.

"It is a very big problem, it's a huge problem actually," said Ernest Azzam, the business manager for laser and enterprise solutions at Hewlett-Packard (HP) Middle East.

The PC vendor has been actively involved in trying to stop the manufacture and trade of counterfeit HP print cartridges and components over the past three years. One of it biggest operations took place in 2009 when the company helped Dubai Police to uncover a warehouse with Dh70 million worth of fake products.

After China, the UAE is the second most common source of counterfeit goods in Europe. About 14.6 per cent of all fakes seized in the EU in 2009 came through the UAE, up from 12.3 per cent in 2008, according to the European Commission.

"What we have found is that most of these [cartridges and components] are being assembled here," said Mr Azzam.

"The assembly is happening here and then it's going for export in Africa and Europe and other places,and, of course, for local market use."

In June, inspectors from the Department of Economic Development seized and destroyed 2,500 items and issued fines of up to Dh100,000 to 113 DragonMart stores for selling counterfeit products.

Mr Azzam said counterfeiting was widespread in the UAE because of the ease with which goods can be moved around the country and free zones.

The end result for companies that make the real thing is they not only lose out on the bottom line but the brand can be damaged because a customer may be unaware they have bought a fake, which then often goes on to fail.

"What happens basically is people buy these products thinking they're original, they put them in their printer and it leaks or it causes damage to the printer, or it doesn't work, and a lot of people don't know that it is a fake product and they blame the company," said Mr Azzam

Apart from cooperating with Dubai Police, he said HP had received a lot of support from Dubai Municipality and Internet City in fighting this trade.

"BlackBerry devices bought through unauthorised channels may have had their original parts and components swapped for inferior imitations and may be subject to Pin theft, IMEI theft and identity theft," said Mr Sandeep Saihgal, the managing director for RIM Middle East.

Etisalat has announced official versions of the BlackBerry 9900 will soon be available in the country as it is accepting pre-orders for the device through a number of retailers.