Calls to boost public protection from growing counterfeit threat

Online retail

The government must act now to better protect UK consumers from the growing threat of e-commerce fraud which has continued to develop at pace during the Covid-19 crisis, the UK’s Anti Counterfeiting Group (ACG) claims.

With the pandemic having “increased the risk of UK consumers being targeted by fraudsters selling fake products,” the government needed to follow the US and EU’s lead and introduce new measures to better protect the public, the ACG said.

ACG director general Phil Lewis said: “With consumers currently being forced to buy more online, fraudsters are using increasingly innovative techniques to trick buyers into parting with their money such as, paid influencers, bogus reviews, convincing packaging, sponsored and sham social media reports, that disappear after 24 hours,”

“Moreover, the use of encrypted instant messaging tools and trusted payment methods like Paypal gives direct access to consumers.

“In one month alone, Google blocked and removed 2.7 billion ads, that is 5,000 bad ads per minute.”

The ACG is calling on the UK government to develop a new Digital Harms Bill to ensure that consumers and business are protected online in the same way that they are from physical markets and retail sellers.

“We are being left behind when it comes to legislation,” Lewis said.

“The US and EU are forging ahead with important steps to protect consumers and businesses from the growing dangers of counterfeiting and illicit trade.

“While the European Commission’s draft Digital Services Act sets it sights on giving e-commerce platforms greater responsibility to proactively screen and prevent the sale of counterfeit goods from appearing on their sites, the US INFORM Act also aims to build greater transparency by improving processes to check the validity of third-party sellers.”

With the UK now the fifth largest consumer market globally, now “more than ever” before was the time to act, Lewis added.