Fakes come at a high price

Counterfeit goods help fund organised crime, but most buyers do not seem to care about that

How do you stop the sale of counterfeits when buyers do not seem to care? Delores Johnson / The National

One of the intractable aspects of the trade in counterfeit luxury goods is that even when buyers are alerted to the fake provenance of designer handbags, many will continue with the purchase. The authorities are cracking down on the trade as reported in The National's business section today, but a long-term solution is needed.

The sale of counterfeit goods not only denies companies the rewards of their meticulously developed brands but is also exploited by organised crime and possibly terrorists, too. Clearly, buying counterfeit goods is far from the victimless crime that some people claim when justifying their purchases.

There are different aspects of this insidious trade. Fake car parts and medicines, for example, are manufactured without any of the oversight mandatory for the genuine product and pose an obvious danger. The foolishness of anyone knowingly buying them is obvious, yet the trade thrives. This week, the police raided an Ajman company and found more than 120,000 fake Isuzu, Honda and Toyota car parts. However, luxury designer goods pose an entirely different challenge. Given that their primary attribute is fashion rather than function, the difference between a genuine Louis Vuitton handbag and a well-made fake can be negligible. This is the sector where buyers knowingly purchase counterfeit in the belief that they will get the cachet of the real thing at a fraction of the price.

As we report, the public’s complicity in buying fakes means the police have to enforce the law thoroughly, as demonstrated by the series of raids in Dubai’s Karama district and in Ajman. Designer goods manufacturers are also protecting their brands more actively. But is that enough? Counterfeit luxury items are a sophisticated business and the best fakes can be very good quality. Might that be part of the solution? That the manufacturers of these top-end fakes simply produce no-brand bags, which consumers could buy cheaply and, guilt free, cutting organised crime out of the loop? The question is would we buy no-brand lookalikes of up-market labels?