As I have complained before, counterfeiting is often underestimated as a crime. It’s one of those peculiar “other people” crimes, as in “Other people really shouldn’t buy fake goods, but if I see a fake Chanel handbag while I’m on holiday, it’s just a bit of fun”. Thin end of the wedge stuff – we can’t really have people making individual judgements about some crimes being acceptable. And anyway, far from being a benign crime that simply (pah! that’s my own individual judgement sneaking in there) deprives the luxury goods companies of some revenue, those in law enforcement know only too well that the manufacture and sale of counterfeit goods is used by criminal and terrorist organisations to fund other activity, mainly because counterfeiting is a “low detection, low penalty” crime and therefore well worth a punt. (And that’s before you take into account the miserable conditions of those who are making these items, in factories entirely untroubled by good working practices or safety concerns.)
Christmas, I am afraid, is a bumper season for counterfeiters, as criminal gangs flood the market with their fakes. Counterfeit toys, computer consoles and games, handbags, shoes and beauty products are big business, and recession-hit shoppers will be tempted by the (seeming) bargains. But factor in the short life of fakes, as well as the cost of putting right any damage they cause (those visits to the emergency room when a child is electrocuted or cut or swallows a rogue piece of toy, or when your skin flares up in reaction to an untested perfume, or when your entire family is poisoned by fake booze), and it starts to look like less of a good deal. And it’s definitely not such a merry Christmas or a happy new year for the legitimate shops and factories who go out of business when they are undercut by criminals selling fakes. So please, everyone, have a genuine festive season.