Coronavirus may be increasing the danger of buying counterfeit printer supplies online.

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown in many countries has forced people to change the way they live and work. Working from home and parents home-schooling their children mean people are likely to be using home printers much more than usual.

However, a combination of increased consumption and a reliance on online ordering while retail outlets are closed could be creating an opportunity for criminal gangs to push counterfeit products onto an unsuspecting market. Inadvertently ordering counterfeit printer supplies online could be funding criminal activity as well as putting home users and their printing equipment at risk.

The dangers of buying counterfeit printer supplies on-line

As a consumer, it is not easy to identify counterfeit products online, or when they arrive at your doorstep. However, the unwary may quickly realise that their printer supplies are not genuine when they produce poor results or damage a printer. Counterfeiters seeking to maximise profits may also manufacture fake goods using cheaper, hazardous chemicals wh ich are harmful to health.

Tackling an increasing online risk

For more than 20 years ICCE (the Imaging Consumables Coalition of Europe, Middle East & Africa) has worked with law enforcement agencies to protect consumers and industry from counterfeit printing products and the criminal networks that produce and sell them. ICCE is a non-profit making association with ten members: Brother, Canon, Epson, HP Inc, Kyocera, Lexmark, OKI, Printronix, Ricoh and Xerox. ICCE members provide information and training to law enforcement agencies and share intelligence leading to joint raids and enforcement actions on the ground.

The growing trend in online shopping and doorstep delivery has also been used by counterfeiters as a safer route to market for their fake products and this trend is being exacerbated by the current lockdown.

According to the OECD report “Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods” published in 2019, 57% of customs seizures were postal packages.

In response, ICCE has been working closely with IP protection agencies and international bodies to raise awareness of the problem and help target suppliers of counterfeit goods on social media and online shopping platforms.

How to spot counterfeit products online

Not only can counterfeit products harm consumers’ health and damage brands, they may be made with slave labour. Criminal gangs are likely to use profits to fund other illegal activities such as people trafficking. So, here are a few simple precautions to help you avoid buying counterfeit printer supplies:

  • Buy from reputable stores and online sites. Check that a website looks genuine and that grammar and spelling are correct, especially of email and website addresses.
  • On auction sites, ensure a seller has good reviews and be suspicious of large amounts of an item for sale from a private seller, especially at low prices. Even when purchasing from well know sites such as Amazon or Ebay, do your homework on the seller.
  • Check that the website’s payment page is secure and be wary of giving your bank details.
  • Avoid products for sale via social media or text message.
  • Look for a local office equipment dealer with a good reputation who may offer online purchasing and home delivery.
  • If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Massively discounted branded products may not be all they seem.

Consumers should also check purchases on delivery for manufacturers anti-counterfeiting measures. These include the quality of packaging and printing, logos, holograms, QR codes, or embossed label characters which change colour from different angles.

If you suspect a website or a delivered package, you can report your suspicion and contact ICCE through the website