Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — The crackdown on counterfeit and smuggled wines and cigars has tightened as the Tết holiday approaches. However, it seems that the fight has not been effective, with many consumers still wary when shopping for goods at markets in Hà Nội.
Minh Trường, a resident in Hà Nội’s Hoàn Kiếm District, said that he struggled to buy foreign wines.
Trường once bought a fake bottle of wine sold at a liquor shop even though he checked the wine carefully.
“It is quite difficult to distinguish between fake and authentic products as the bottle, label and even the colour of fake wine look identical to the real one,” he said.
Quỳnh Hương, another consumer in Hoàn Kiếm District, said that she no longer trusted the liquor stores in town. She usually bought wine from friends who travelled abroad.
“I can’t tell if a bottle of wine is real or fake, so I’d rather not buy it here,” she said.
Under current regulations, alcohol that is not correctly labelled with import stamps will be classified as counterfeit. However, it’s likely that even certification stamps can not guarantee genuine products.
Phạm Ngọc Hùng, vice chairman of the Việt Nam Anti-Counterfeiting Fund, told the Lao động (Labour) newspaper that there were many tricks used to make counterfeit wines look like those from famous brands. Violators could substitute poor-quality alcohol into a used bottle of wine to trick consumers, or fake the bottle, cork, labelling and even certification stamps to sell the product.
Hùng said it was challenging for consumers to tell the difference between fake and real products at a glance and they could easily be cheated.
Recently, many cases of fake imported alcohol have been discovered.
Last October, more than 300 bottles of wine lacking clear origins were seized when they were transported to the central province of Thanh Hóa for consumption.
On the same month, city police, in co-operation with police in Hải Phòng City and Thanh Hóa and Nghệ An provinces seized nearly 5,000 bottles of fake alcohol, which was a mixture of imported and domestic wine and labelled with false certification stamps. The bottles were made to look like well-known brands from Germany, Australia, Scotland and the US.
Last year, stories about the production of fake imported wine in Long Biên District’s Nguyễn Sơn Street were published in local press. In shining a light on the manufacture and trade of fake alcohol, consumers began to question the quality of imported wines sold at the city’s markets.
Meanwhile, the crackdown on such fake products seems to have had little effect.
Figures from the city’s Market Watch showed that inspectors made raids in 60 cases of trading and importing wines. Of that, 48 cases faced fines of over VNĐ157 million (US$6,908) and 210 bottles, or 2,203 litres of alcohol, was seized.
Dr Nguyễn Trung Nguyên of Hà Nội’s Bạch Mai Hospital said that cases of alcohol poisoning increased remarkably before and after Tết. The reason was the increased consumption of fake alcohol.
Cigars – a new concern
Imported cigars are among luxury goods purchased for the Tết holiday. Although selling this kind of product requires strict business conditions, they have been found at many stores in the city.
Quang Anh, a cigar smoker, said that he was surprised to find many rare and expensive types of cigars being sold at numerous stores in the city.
Cohiba Behike cigars are one example. The limited and luxurious cigars are normally sold at about $1,500 per box, but they have been advertised at just VNĐ5-6 million ($220-264) per box in Hà Nội.
Duy Sáng, another cigar smoker, said that cigars were advertised as imported from Cuba or Europe, but sellers failed to show any papers to prove their origin.
Last year, the Ministry of Finance tightened regulations on importing cigars to Việt Nam, in which a person could only carry 20 cigars when entering Việt Nam, instead of 100 cigars as previously.
Last November, the city’s inspectors seized 389 cigars sold at a shop on Trung Kính Street as the shop owner failed to show the required papers.
Currently, Việt Nam National Tobacco Corporation is the only unit allowed to import and distribute cigars in Việt Nam.
A representative from the city’s Market Watch’s Unit 1 said that they would continue to investigate shops selling cigars in the city and deter violations. — VNS