Local authorities unaware of dangers of fake goods
Councillors have called for clarity on where responsibility lies for stopping the sale of fake goods. Their concerns were uncovered following research carried out by the polling company ComRes.
The research also exposed a lack of awareness of the impact sales of fake goods have on consumers and the damage being done to local communities.
Responsibility for protecting people from fake goods e.g. counterfeit toys, children's clothing, household products as well as CDs and DVDs, and enforcing IP law rests with local authority trading standards services, but only half of the councillors surveyed believe this should be the case; over 40 per cent also pointing to central government, amongst others.
This confusion continues over the funding of this enforcement. Trading Standards are funded by local authorities (LAs) but a staggering 79 per cent of councillors believe funding for this issue should come from central government, not out of local budgets.
Susie Winter, Director General of the Alliance Against IP Theft said: Counterfeiting and piracy affects every local authority in the UK. Consumers are ripped off and exposed to potential harm; local businesses are unable to compete with sellers of fakes; and criminal gangs intimidate legitimate traders and embed criminality and anti-social behaviour in the community.
'We are very concerned that this confusion over responsibility and lack of understanding about the harm fake goods cause is resulting in, at best, inaction but, at worst, budget cuts in this important area of trading standards work. This is despite funding being directed to local authorities for the purpose as a result of the Gowers Review.'
Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute, added: 'The recession risks being a catalyst for more counterfeiting with hard pressed consumers being targeted by these fraudsters. Therefore, we ask all local authorities to ensure their trading standards service is realistically resourced and equipped to deal with the sale of fake goods, and using the Proceeds of Crime Act to take assets off IP criminals so that not only is their ability to reoffend taken away but so that, under the incentivisation scheme, the authority receives a proportion of the monies seized.'
Notes To Editors
* ComRes surveyed 504 local Councillors online, between 30th October and 11th of November 2008. Only Councillors in authorities with responsibility for tackling IP Crime were sampled. The research was weighted by region and party to represent all Councillors in England and Wales.
ComRes is the retained pollster for the Independent and the Independent on Sunday. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules (www.britishpollingcouncil.org) which commit them to the highest standards of transparency.
On average, Councillors scored each of the seven consequences of IP crime listed below between 'to no extent' and 'to some extent'. Full tables are available at the ComRes website: http://www.comres.co.uk/page190734021.aspx
Thinking about your local area, to what extent do you see evidence of the following consequences of IP crime?
To a great extent, to some extent, to no extent, don't know
* Consumers acquiring poor quality or potentially dangerous products
* Increase in anti-social behaviour such as intimidation and harassment
* Under-age children exposed to unsuitable material (e.g. fake pornographic/violent DVDs)
* Legitimate traders losing trade (e.g. markets)
* High street shops being forced to close
* Feeding other serious criminal activity (e.g. drugs, weapons, child pornography)
* Public finances harmed through loss of tax and other revenue payments
* Following the 2006 Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, the government implemented Section 107A of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act which gave trading standards the power and duty to enforce copyright law. To accompany this new duty an additional £5m of funding was made available.
* Launched in 1998, Alliance Against IP Theft provides a unique single voice to promote to government the importance of intellectual property (IP) to all sectors of the UK economy and to explain the harm - economic, physical and social - caused by IP theft.
Representing film, music, software, sports and publishing, branded manufactured goods and retailers, individual designers and small businesses, the Alliance has campaigned vigorously to demonstrate the important economic and cultural contribution IP makes to the UK and helped bring about legislative reform to ensure our assets are safeguarded for the future wellbeing of the British economy.
A full list of members can be found at www.allianceagainstiptheft.co.uk
* The Trading Standards Institute represents the interests of Trading Standards professionals. Its aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of its members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities. TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year.
The Alliance Against Intellectual Property Theft Limited
Registered Office: 167 Wardour Street, London W1F 8WL Telephone 020 7534 0595 Fax 020 7534 0581
Registered in England and Wales. Company number: 5976983