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Subpar co-ordination plagues fight against counterfeit goods

Update: April, 10/2015 - 09:06
Police officers in the southern province of Hau Giang destroy fake and illegally imported products including cigarettes, CDs and cosmetics. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khang

HA NOI (VNS) — Counterfeit goods make up 10 per cent of the trade fraud cases officials dealt with in 2014, but some say that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Fake goods continued to flood the market due to ineffective co-ordination among agencies and law enforcement, officials said at a forum held yesterday on the Government Portal.

Authorities dealt with nearly 22,000 cases of counterfeit goods in 2014. Nguyen Van Can, chief of the National Steering Committee on Prevention and Control of Smuggling, Trade Fraud and Fake Commodities office (Committee 389), said that number wasn't even close to the amount of fake goods stocked every market across the country.

Currently there are six separate government forces responsible for preventing smuggling and trade fraud: customs, border police, police, tax authorities, maritime police and market management forces.

The agencies needed to share more information and co-ordinate, Can said, adding that in 2014 only 11 cases of counterfeit goods were prosecuted and the rest resulted in fines.

Examples include a company in Binh Dinh Province that bought 7.2 tonnes of materials and equipment from China to produce fake monosodium glutamate. Also, HCM City officials seized 12 tonnes of fake supplemental foods in January.

"The law stipulates that any person who produces or transports counterfeit goods having a value of VND30 million (US$1,500) or more could face imprisonment," he said.

"The committee is aware that the government agencies and local authorities have not strengthened their control over counterfeit goods."

Beer, wine, cosmetics, pesticides and fertilisers made up the majority of counterfeit goods seized in 2014. Nguyen Trong Tin, deputy director of the Trade Ministry's Market Management Department, said his department had trouble instructing local market management agencies on how to deal with the fake goods. They also faced a lack of staff and equipment at the border gate, which made it difficult to deal with the more sophisticated smugglers.

Domestic firms had incurred huge losses due to counterfeit goods, but yet these businesses didn't co-operate with local authorities to combat the problem, officials said.

Nguyen Manh Hung, vice chairman and general secretary of the Viet Nam Standards and Consumers Association (VINASTAS), said many businesses feared co-operating meant announcing that fake versions of their products were being sold at the market, and could stop customers from buying their real products.

In 2014, the association received more than 500 complaints from consumers, but it hasn't been able to bring a single case to court. Hng attributed this to consumers' limited awareness about their rights and their apathy toward associations.

Le The Bao, chairman of the Viet Nam Association for Anti-Counterfeiting and Trademark Protection, also agreed that the role of associations and businesses in fighting counterfeit goods must be improved.

"Counterfeit goods hurt our economic growth and the well-being of the entire society," he said. "We cannot condone and use counterfeit goods."

A lack of standardization in labeling allowed counterfeit producers to produce fake labeling and transport counterfeit goods, said Nguyen Hung Anh, vice chief of the anti-smuggling and investigation department under Viet Nam Customs.

Can of Committee 389 said the Government would tighten inspections, particularly at border gates and provide better equipment to detect counterfeit goods.

Committee 389 would increase its supervision of major counterfeit cases and monitor whether these cases would be prosecuted, Can said.

Tin from the Market Management Department called for higher fines to deter counterfeiters, and more crackdowns at supermarkets and commercial centers where fake goods were sold alongside authentic products. — VNS

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