11 per cent of Maltese say that they have been misled into buying fake products, according to a study looking into the attitudes and behaviours of EU citizens towards counterfeiting and piracy. 

The study, ‘European Citizens and Intellectual Property (IP)’ carried out by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) was conducted in 27 EU member states between June 1 and July 6 2020. 

Intellectual Property refers to the ownership of an idea or design by a person, meaning that nobody else can copy or reuse the creation without the owner’s permission.  

Just over 500 respondents in Malta were interviewed for the survey.

What are counterfeits? 

Counterfeit goods are fake or unauthorised replicas of a real product. Usually counterfeits imitate an authentic brand to trick consumers who simply trust logos when deciding to buy a product. 

Such fake products can be found online or in high-street stores, and items can range from clothing to footwear, bags, accessories, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and electronics. 

In the past five years, Customs seized €209 million worth of counterfeit goods, with 2020 marking as Customs’ most productive year over the five-year period. 

In a global context where e-commerce is booming, and the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty regarding fake products remains a concern among EU citizens. According to a joint study by EUIPO and OECD, counterfeits represents 6.8 per cent of EU imports worth €121 billion. 

It is recommended that certain fake items should never be purchased such as medicines and pharmaceutical products. Such items may contain dangerous ingredients which might cause health problems or even prove to be fatal.

Apart from health and safety risks, counterfeits often lead to security breaches and financial losses. 

A third of Europeans wonder if they bought a fake product 

According to the study, nearly one in 10 Europeans (nine per cent) claimed that they were misled into buying counterfeits. 

Malta is slightly above the EU average, with 11 per cent of consumers claiming that they were misled into buying counterfeit goods.

Bulgaria (19 per cent), Romania (16 per cent) and Hungary (15 per cent), are countries with a higher proportion of misled consumers. 

In contrast, Sweden with two per cent, and Denmark three per cent, have the lowest figures within the EU. 

A third of Europeans (33 per cent) have wondered during the last 12 months whether a product they bought was original or not, down from 37 per cent in 2017.

The study does not delve into which fake products the respondents bought.

Six percent of Maltese have intentionally purchased fake goods 

According to the study, the number of Europeans who confessed to recently purchasing counterfeit goods in the past year is low, at 5 per cent.

Percentage of respondents that bought counterfeit products intentionally per country Source: studyPercentage of respondents that bought counterfeit products intentionally per country Source: study

The self-declared consumption of counterfeit goods is high in Portugal (13 per cent), Slovenia (12 per cent),  as well as in Greece and Lithuania (both 10 per cent). 

In Malta, 6 per cent have confessed to buying fake goods intentionally, which is a drop of 7 per cent from the previous study in 2017. 

Croatia (4 per cent), France and Finland (3 per cent) have lower numbers of consumers confessing to buying fake goods, with Sweden and Italy, both at just two per cent. 

The study said that this does not necessarily reflect on a higher or lower prevalence of buying fake goods, but reflect more of a readiness to admit to that kind of behaviour. 

The study also asked consumers the reasons why they stopped buying counterfeit goods, with the main reason being the availability of affordable genuine products (52 per cent).

Whilst 94 per cent of Romanians and 93 per cent of Poles reported that this was the key reason for them to stop buying counterfeits, this figure was only 27 per cent in Malta – the lowest figure amongst 27 EU countries. 

32 per cent of Maltese have a ‘rather good’ understanding of IP

According to the study, EU citizens’ subjective understanding of the concept of Intellectual Property is high, with eight out of 10 Europeans surveyed (80 per cent) saying they have a ‘very good’ or ‘rather good’ understanding of the term. 

Percentage of respondents according to country that understanding of the term ‘intellectual property' Source: EUIPO StudyPercentage of respondents according to country that understanding of the term ‘intellectual property' Source: EUIPO Study

The statistics vary across countries, ranging from the highest 91 per cent in Poland, to 32 per cent in Malta. 

Other countries with a high understanding of IP include Austria (88 per cent), Greece, Bulgaria and Germany (all 86 per cent). 

Apart from Malta, the understanding of IP is relatively low in Finland (41 per cent), Denmark (50 per cent) and Sweden (53 per cent) yet all these countries, except for Malta, have improved since 2017. 

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