Online sales of fake items on the rise

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2011, 12:00am


Sales of counterfeit goods on the internet may be on the rise, but Hong Kong customs officers say they are more than up to the task of cracking down on the crime.

Customs officers solved 66 cases last year, up from 31 in 2008 and 58 in 2009. This year's figures remain steady; officers detected 43 cases and arrested 49 people in the first eight months.

Michael Kwan Yuk-kwan, head of the copyright investigation division, attributed the rise to the growing popularity of online shopping, especially among youngsters.

'We have noticed the increasing trend,' he said.

'They never imagined that they would be tracked down and arrested, and they did not consider the consequences.'

He warned that forensic evidence could be retrieved from auction websites and computers. Dozens of complaints about online activities associated with counterfeiting are received each month, but Kwan said the situation was not alarming. 'Hong Kong customs is capable of combatting the problem,' he declared.

People from all walks of life have been arrested in connection with such illegal business, including students, housewives, the unemployed and those in professional careers. An accountant is believed to be among those held by customs officers.

Under the Copyright Ordinance, the maximum penalty is four years in jail and a fine of HK$50,000 for each infringing item.

Fakes sold on online auction websites included leather handbags, wallets and clothes bearing brand names. Counterfeit mobile-phone accessories and iPhones have also been found on auction websites.

'Counterfeit goods are usually described as second-hand items on these auction websites and sold at one-tenth of the price of genuine products,' Kwan said.

He said counterfeiters had also tried to sell fake goods on overseas auction websites in an attempt to evade arrest.

'We will continue to exchange intelligence and co-operate with mainland and overseas law enforcers,' he said.

The divisional commander said customs officers would be disguised as shoppers to carry out undercover operations.

'We also use a computer surveillance system to track the online activities of counterfeiters around the clock,' Kwan said.

To avoid buying counterfeit or defected goods on the internet, online consumers should complete transactions in person so they could check the items before paying, he said.