Dubai raids net Dh1.6bn worth of counterfeit items in 2016

Mobiles topped the list of confiscated goods and 14.6 million handsets – worth about Dh429 million – were seized by the Department of Economic Development.

Counterfeit goods valued at Dh1.6 billion were seized in 2016 in raids by consumer protection officers. Antonie Robertson / The National
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DUBAI // Millions of counterfeit mobile phones, cigarettes, cosmetics and other items valued at Dh1.6 billion were seized last year in raids by consumer protection officers.

Mobiles topped the list of confiscated goods and 14.6 million handsets – worth about Dh429 million – were seized by the Department of Economic Development. Accessories came second, with 11.4 million pieces worth more than Dh130m, followed by 6.2 million pieces of cosmetics with a value estimated at Dh105m.

Mohammed Rashed Ali Lootah, chief executive of Commercial Compliance & Consumer Protection, said the number of seizures showed the DED was making ground on counterfeiters by driving many out of the UAE market.

“Firstly, we must protect the holy grail of the owners’ rights, they who have spent a lot on innovation and design of products we are all using. There is a responsibility to protect that innovation, but we must also protect consumers.

“Counterfeiters use different grades of fake products, they do not care about safety, they just want to move it in the market.”

Counterfeit goods are seized in Dubai. Video by Nick Webster

The latest trick is to import generic mobile phones, capable of switching operating systems by entering a code that turns them into a fake Apple, Huawei or Samsung device.

Thousands of such phones have been confiscated from wholesale markets in Dubai and destroyed.

Mr Lootah said the DED was working with Dubai Municipality to crack down on fake handsets.

“The counterfeit trend always depends on the international market,” he said. “In 2015, fragrances were one of the top items recovered, that has changed. It is supply and demand and the current trend is mobile phones.

“Mobiles have a very common shape, with most well-known brands similar. There is a code that is entered so they can be switched to the software and markings of a well-known brand.

“They do that to get them through any customs checks globally under the pretense of being a separate, generic brand.”

Ibrahim Behzad, DED director of intellectual property rights management, disposes of illegal, counterfeit mobile phones seized in raids. Video by Nick Webster

Once imported, the phones are then reprogrammed and sold on the black market as genuine goods. Using cheaper components often compromises the safety of the devices.

Mr Lootah said the DED was also targeting the illegal sale of e-cigarettes in markets and side street shops.

Construction materials totalling 7.7 million pieces, valued at Dh42.9m, and 7.6 million pieces of tobacco and smoking materials worth Dh1.7m were also confiscated.

The number of items confiscated last year was seven per cent higher than the 63.3 million impounded in 2015.

The corresponding increase in estimated value of goods was 15 per cent, about Dh1.01bn.

Other items seized in the raids included well-known brands of gaming equipment, vehicle parts, medical equipment, stationery and office products.

Mobile phones are shredded. Video by Nick Webster

Officers also recovered fake packaging material, household items, sports equipment, electronic and electrical appliances, perfumes, sunglasses, clothing, bags, leather goods, food products, watches, shoes, inks, bed linen, tablets and computers.

“We maintain a round-the-clock vigil to protect intellectual property and do random inspections, field visits and investigation to detect counterfeits,” said Ibrahim Behzad, the DED director of intellectual property rights management.

“Our team collaborates with public and private sector partners and conducts awareness campaigns among traders to alert them on the dangers of counterfeiting.

“We urge businesses and investors to register their brands to guard against any infringements, and we participate in seminars to introduce the role and mandate of the DED in ensuring commercial compliance and consumer protection.”

Consumers can report any harmful practices that come to their attention to the Ahlan Dubai number 600 54 5555 or through Twitter using #@Dubai_consumers.