Christmas shopping: advice on online shopping and travel abroad

Information from the financial administration on counterfeit products and buying souvenirs when travelling abroad for Christmas

Austrian Customs regularly records an increase in counterfeit product seizures during the Christmas period. Seizures of animal souvenirs also increase.

Online sales are expected to grow rapidly due to Christmas shopping. Exclusive clothing and technical equipment like smartphones are particularly popular. In addition to negatively affecting business, fair competition and jobs, the Austrian customs administration is also warning that counterfeit products can also represent a serious threat to consumer health.

Austrian customs has already seized more than 52,000 counterfeit branded articles so far in 2016 with a value of close to EUR 2.5 million based on original product prices. Experience has shown that the volume is even higher during the Christmas period.

Online counterfeit products are a source of risk

It has been a long time since counterfeiting was limited to luxury items. Based on past experience in the Austrian customs administration, the increase in seizures is particularly significant for technical articles like smartphones and tablets, children's toys, clothing and sports articles during the Christmas period. The risk to consumers from these counterfeit goods is alarming. Many present a serious risk to consumer health. 

Unfortunately, these risks are not taken seriously enough when consumers see what looks like a bargain, but the potential injuries that could be caused by counterfeit products simply cannot be ignored. These range from allergies due to cheap, toxic dyes in counterfeit clothing, eye injuries due to counterfeit sunglasses without UV protection, chemical skin burns from counterfeit washing detergent or counterfeit personal care products, injuries from exploding mobile phones and counterfeit batteries, and injuries to children from counterfeit children's toys that do not meet applicable safety requirements and quality standards. The risks associated with counterfeit products can be quite serious and make the purchase of counterfeit goods much more than the minor offence it is often considered to be.

Reputation and trust in online shopping

When shopping online, one should therefore always keep in mind that what looks like a bargain might only be offered at such a low price because it is not an original product, but instead a cheap, low quality counterfeit. As far as possible, one should therefore try to order goods from reputable sellers only. Branded goods in particular should only be bought from well-known, established companies that are just as reliable online as they are in their traditional businesses.

More information on counterfeit products, online shopping and the Austrian customs administration is available here:

Shopping when travelling abroad

Travel abroad also increases during the Christmas and New Years period. Naturally, no one wants to have problems passing through customs when returning to Austria after a holiday.

Animal souvenirs

Some souvenirs are a problem to import. Snake-skin belts, crocodile-leather bags, ivory carvings and coral jewellery, for example, are subject to endangered species protection, as are exotic furs and skins, orchids, cactus and large shells found on the beach. Because of this legislation, it is best not to buy these “unusual souvenirs”, and making such a decision is also the best way to help protect our plant and animal world for the future. When buying souvenirs abroad, holiday travellers should therefore make sure they are not plant and animal species that are protected under the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.If customs discovers animals or plants being imported without a permit, the smuggled “souvenir” will be seized and a fine imposed. In the worst case scenario, financial criminal proceedings will be initiated. It is therefore best to ensure you are informed in advance about what can be imported and under what conditions. Certain species can only be imported and exported with appropriate permits. Austrian customs makes it a priority to enforce endangered species protection, thereby protecting biodiversity for the future.

Further information on endangered species protection is available here:

General customs information on the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance website:

Austrian Ministry of Finance app

Among other things, the Austrian Ministry of Finance app provides in-depth information on customs law that must be observed when crossing the border into Austria. The app also operates in offline mode and can therefore be used without problems abroad. The BMF app can be downloaded free of charge from the online store for your smartphone – Google Play, iTunes, Windows app Store.

Photographs on counterfeit products and endangered species protection are available in the “customs” section of the Austrian Ministry of Finance photography portal and can be used free of charge when the copyright/source information is shown: