Austrian Federal Finance Ministry: Product piracy seizures on the increase – More counterfeit medicines than ever before Publication of 2016 Product Piracy Report 2016 – Customs authority strengthening consumer protection and economy

Vienna/BMF (OTS) - In 2016, the Austrian customs authorities recorded 1,947 product piracy seizures, comprising 67,535 counterfeit items. Measured against the original price, the value of these fakes totalled over EUR 2.7 million. The quantity of counterfeit goods seized has increased significantly. This is clear from the 2016 Product Piracy Report, published by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance at the end of March.

The negative impact of product piracy becomes particularly clear when one considers the example of counterfeit medicines. "Medicines are faked by unscrupulous profiteers operating almost entirely underground. These counterfeit products are produced, stored and transported under conditions not remotely in compliance with the standards applying in the pharmaceutical industry," explained Gerhard Marosi, in charge of combating product piracy at the Austrian Finance Ministry. "These counterfeits present a huge threat to public health and safety!" warns Marosi.

In this regard, the Austrian customs administration achieved a sobering record in 2016; never before have so many counterfeit medicines been seized by customs authorities acting under the EU Product Piracy Regulation 2014. In 900 seizure actions, a total of 53,389 counterfeit medicines were confiscated. Lifestyle products headed the list, with the proportion of erectile dysfunction products higher compared with previous years. Diet pills and hair growth preparations are still being seized, but to a lesser degree.

The successes of the Austrian customs administration were indeed impressive even compared with other EU Member States. Over the past few years, almost a quarter of all seizures of counterfeit medicines across the 28 EU Member States took place in Austria. In 2015 – EU-wide figures for 2016 are not yet available – over 30% of all seizures throughout the EU were attributable to the Austrian customs administration!

Whereas previously, mainly luxury articles were faked, it is now the case that a whole variety of counterfeit mass consumer goods are being offered. The imitation and counterfeiting of products is on the increase worldwide. Well-organized criminal associations are introducing an ever-increasing number of counterfeit branded goods onto the European and Austrian market. For this reason, the Austrian Finance Ministry considers one of its central duties to lie in combating product piracy.

"Combating product piracy means greater fiscal justice, and is essential in order to ensure fair competition," declares Marosi. "Securing Austria as a strong economic base also benefits taxpayers!" 

Not only are consumers affected, who have a right to quality products, but employees are affected to. Across the EU, 82 million workers – approximately 30% of the entire workforce – are engaged either directly or indirectly in economic sectors which are heavily dependent on the protection of intellectual property rights. 42% of total economic output in the EU, i.e. EUR 5.7 billion, relates to such economic sectors. The financial loss which businesses suffer as a result of counterfeit products, as well as the financial cost of combating product piracy, inevitably leads to cutbacks, meaning that jobs may be lost also in Austria. What is more, the government also loses tax revenues.

The Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance and the Austrian customs administration are therefore putting increased efforts into providing public information, and offer services ranging from publications on a wide range of customs topics and an enquiry service for internet orders from the Central Customs Information Office (zollinfo@bmf.gv.at), to the Finance Ministry's own app with dedicated customs section.

2016 Product Piracy Report: http://bit.ly/Produktpirateriebericht_2016

Photos from the presentation of counterfeit products at the Vienna customs office and the subsequent destruction of pirated goods at the Pfaffenau Waste Incineration Plant may be accessed for use free of charge, subject to copyright/source reference, at the photo portal www.bmf.gv.at: http://bit.ly/Fotoportal_BMF_Produktpiraterie