The Invisible Costs of Buying Counterfeit Products

On the one hand, buying counterfeit goods may seem like an innocent way of saving some money while walking away with a product that resembles its more expensive original.


But there is a far more disturbing truth lurking behind every single counterfeit product you may find in illicit markets and shops all around the world.


Even if most of us will refuse to buy counterfeit products for the fear that they might break, tear or prove themselves to be obsolete in whichever way soon after we buy them, it’s also important to look beyond our immediate concerns and consider the bigger picture that makes counterfeiting products at such a large and alarming rate possible.


It’s a crime in more ways than one

It’s tempting to assume that counterfeit products will affect the ‘brand’ being copied and distributed illegally, but not much else. Sure, you might think, this corporate giant may take a dent or two from pale imitations of their products being sold on the black market, but that’s it, right? And they’re all big enough to recover from any financial fallout they suffer from all of this, right?


Even if the answer to both those questions is a confident ‘YES’, the larger problems pertaining to counterfeit goods remain. The most important, and most disturbing of these is the very real fact that the production of counterfeit goods is a lifeline for various international crime rings.


In fact, an extensive report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that some of the most powerful criminal organisations in the world benefit from the production and distribution of counterfeit goods, with feared and dangerous names like the Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta (Europe and America) and the Triads in Asia mentioned in the report as key players in this game. Crucially, these entities employ counterfeit goods as yet another way to generate profit and mask even more sinister operations. The fact that it seems like an ‘innocent’ or ‘minor’ crime only works in their favour.


To put it simply, it’s easier to sell knock-off ‘designer’ shoes than it is to smuggle weapons or drugs.


There are flesh and blood victims

The involvement of these big names of organised crime makes it pretty clear that we can’t expect ethical standards from whoever engages in the production of counterfeit goods. But even when it comes to less obviously threatening small-time operators, the fact remains that the bosses in charge of the production of counterfeit products are accountable to no-one.


It should therefore come as no surprise that workers are routinely exploited and that labour laws and non-existent in such environments – a fact confirmed by the same UNODC report, which goes on to describe how certain illicit operations were even found to be exploiting six-year-olds to produce their materials.


The environment and economy suffer too

Naturally, clamping down on illicit products requires the authorities and commercial entities to be more alert about monitoring what goes in and out of the market, and checking on whether it’s illegal or not. This of course puts an added strain on all involved, sometimes even affecting the law-abiding taxpayer.


Neither should it come as a surprise that those engaging in the production of counterfeit products are doing so without any environmental concerns stopping them. Since they are accountable to no authority, they can feel free to pollute at will, leaving not just their workers and deceived clients to suffer the consequences of their activity, but the entire planet too.


Counterfeit goods: Impossible to justify

While they have long been a dark reality of the global economy, the impact of counterfeit goods should not be ignored or brushed aside. Behind the array of cheap knock-off goods lies a complex and wide-ranging web of criminality that nobody in their right might would want to be complicit in.