It’s time to get tough on counterfeiters

Having tougher laws against commercial fraud would certainly strengthen the business environment in the country.

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Illicit trade, specifically the sale of counterfeit goods, is a curse of economies around the world. Many states and international organisations have been working to identify, disrupt and dismantle the organised networks that are responsible for the production and distribution of such goods.

In the UAE, shops that sell fake products can either be fined or have their business licences revoked. But senior officials within Dubai Department of Economic Development have called for tougher punishments against counterfeiters, particularly those shops that sell potentially hazardous fake items.

Counterfeit goods come in all shapes and sizes, including car parts, medication and mobile phones, as well as fake designer clothes, bags, watches, perfumes, pirate DVDs, CDs and computer games. The sale of these goods not only harms those legitimate businesses that sell bona fide products, but consumers as well, leaving them at risk of being exposed to cheap, substandard and unsafe merchandise.

Counterfeit car parts, for example, compromise every road user’s safety. Faulty tyres are one of the main causes of accidents on our roads, according to an official from the vehicle inspection department in Abu Dhabi. While some of these accidents are caused by excessive tyre wear, others are directly attributable to the use of substandard counterfeit tyres that perform badly.

As The National reported yesterday, the FNC finance committee is discussing a new bill to fight commercial fraud. The draft law is expected to deliver stricter punishments for counterfeiting, theft of intellectual property and other offences. It is intended to replace a 1979 law, which is now deemed outdated.

The authorities have been making efforts to combat the problem, locally and nationally. The commercial protection section at the Abu Dhabi Business Centre, an affiliate of the Department of Economic Development, conducts regular inspections of shops. During the second quarter of this year, it found 14,855 fake or illegal products in 39,472 visits.

The tougher penalties proposed by the FNC bill would send out the sternest possible warning to counterfeiters that their goods are neither welcome nor safe.