Customs seizure stops shops from pulling wool over boot-buyers' eyes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 February, 2010, 12:00am

Customers who bought what they thought were name-brand Australian sheepskin boots recently would have been disappointed when they checked their purchases. Not only were the boots not products of the UGC brand, but they were not even sheepskin.

Customs officers seized 163 pairs of bogus boots, the first such seizure in the city, among HK$7 million worth of fake goods confiscated in a two-week operation that included raids on 25 shops in Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui between January 25 and Sunday.

Superintendent Koon Hon-chuen, head of the intellectual property investigation group, said the sellers would show customers a genuine pair of boots, then give them a fake pair after they made their purchase.

He said the quality of the fakes was very low. They were poor-quality leather lined with plastic material. 'Worn-out linings and poor gluing work can be found in the counterfeit boots. Consumers can easily distinguish the fakes,' he said.

Koon believed the fakes were aimed at both local and overseas shoppers, adding that officers were investigating whether they were smuggled into Hong Kong from the mainland.

The fake boots sold for HK$300 to HK$500, compared to HK$1,400 to HK$1,600 for a genuine pair.

Officers said counterfeiters mixed the genuine boots with the fakes to confuse consumers. 'They displayed and showed genuine boots to customers. After confirming the transaction, the salesperson claimed a new pair would be given to customers. In fact, they went to get the counterfeit boots and gave them to the buyer.

'Customers were told that the fakes were parallel-import products or on crazy sale to explain the lower price.'

The fake boots were among about 45,000 counterfeit items, including 5,000 fake Lunar New Year festive goods, seized by customs officers ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

About half of the 45,000 items were seized in three separate cases at the Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu checkpoints.

During the operation, officers raided 25 retail outlets, 10 warehouses and nine hawker stalls. They arrested 26 men and 33 women aged 18 to 78. The arrested include shop owners and sales people.

Koon said officers would inspect stalls at Lunar New Year fairs to ensure fake goods were not being sold.