Addressing the Menace of Counterfeiting


Print and mobile phone devices have suffered a great deal from counterfeiting, often resulting in revenue losses, brand reputation damage, decline in consumer confidence and threat to employment. Yet, there appears to be no end in sight to the menace, writes Emma Okonji

Counterfeiting is a big business for those that indulge in it and a big challenge to brand owners, consumers and the society at large. It does not only affect businesses and global trade through loss of revenue, reputation damage and falling consumer confidence, but it can also have a wider impact on society, damaging employment and helping to fund international and organised crime.

Unfortunately, the market for counterfeit goods is thriving. At the global scene, the police all over the world including European police (Europol) have warned that the production and distribution of counterfeit goods is an increasingly attractive route for organised criminals wanting to diversify their product range. More recently, Europol launched a campaign highlighting the rising threat of counterfeit goods sold online.

It is a problem acutely felt by printer manufacturers and mobile phone manufacturers worldwide, because they are the worst hit, when it comes to counterfeiting, and governments including Nigerian government have not been able to address the situation, while trying to protect territorial trades through policy formulation and implementation.

Counterfeiting in print supplies 

For instance, high demand for print supplies, including ink and toner has caused a marked increase in the number of counterfeit print products appearing in the market, and the growth of online retail has only made it easier for counterfeiters to operate.

The sad truth is that some consumers, choosing to buy original ink and toner made by the manufacturer of their printer, end up as the victims of this crime, often unwittingly until problems arise. Some are mis-sold cheaper, but legal, others as alternative products, and at worst, some are supplied as completely faked branded goods. Attractive deals and advertising, which greatly reduced prices online may save some money now, but the consumer or business usually ends up paying over the odds further down the line.

Firstly, using non-Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) supplies can cause performance and reliability issues. Testing done by Buyers Lab has shown that original HP ink cartridges surpass non-HP alternatives by producing on average 50 per cent more pages. The same test revealed that more than 40 per cent of non-HP ink cartridges failed either being dead on arrival or expiring prematurely.

“Should your printer break as a result of using counterfeit printer ink or toner, you could also have issues with your manufacturer’s warranty becoming not applicable, most OEMs in print supplies said. The short-term gains simply are not worth the potential long-term problems,” they added.


Effect of fake print supplies

According to Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP), an arm of the European Commission, counterfeiting of print supplies, shows that it can have a wider impact on society; reaching far beyond the end user. For example, approximately 2.5 million jobs across the G20 regions have been lost due to the growth of counterfeiting and piracy. On top of that, The Imaging Supplies Coalition estimates that counterfeiting has a global impact of $3 billion on the printing supplies industry alone, each year.

Those behind the sale of counterfeit printer products often build their businesses exclusively on counterfeiting. In other cases, they mix illegitimate and original products, and sell them together at the same time, making it more difficult to spot fakes.

“These sophisticated techniques mean it’s getting harder and harder to catch the culprits behind the sale of these illegal products,” the coalition said in a statement.

According to the coalition, “This is why printer manufacturers like HP are actively involved in anti-counterfeit measures. It not only helps channel partners and customers ensure that they are selling the correct quality and legitimate products, but also supports our society in trying to eradicate this slice of the counterfeiting industry.”

Activities of the coalition 

The coalition work with local law authorities across the globe to investigate and seize counterfeit products to help keep customers safe from being sold poor quality and unlawful goods. For example, in just six months last year, from May to October 2016, HP worked with law enforcement agencies across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) to seize 1.9 million counterfeit products.

“With counterfeiting of goods, especially printing products growing at an alarming rate, both businesses and consumers need to be extra vigilant about the ink and toner they are buying,” Hewlett Packard (HP) said in a statement.

How to identify print counterfeit goods 

In a bid to protect consumers from falling prey to print counterfeit supplies, original printer manufacturers have advised  consumers to carry out scan on the box, with the support of a smartphone.

The smartphone could be used to scan the QR code on an HP cartridge’s security seal, and buyer will be automatically taken to the validation screen, to ascertain if the HP printer is genuine.

Aside scanning, the customer could also carry out physical check on the brand labels, since HP cartridges are supplied with both a holographic security label to validate authenticity, and a tamper-evident label with clear instructions to identify whether the product has been inferred with.

Another clever way to identify fake is to go online to validate the serial numbers from the security labels online at

“Customers are, however, advised to buy print products from reputable retailers. Customers should not have any issues if they are buying printer cartridges and toner ink from established and reputable retail outlets and commercial resellers.

Fake print products are a real problem, stay alert and stay ahead of the criminals, by following these simple steps to spot, report and avoid counterfeits,” OEM advised customers.


Counterfeiting in mobile phones 

Apart from counterfeit in print supplies, counterfeiting also exists in mobile phone manufacturing. Mobile phone manufacturers, who gathered in Lagos recently at a press briefing organised by Jumia to announce its third mobile week show, also complained of counterfeiting and its risk potential.

The phone manufacturers said the practice of faking mobile phones products is already threatening the mobile phone business.

One of the brands was bold to say that counterfeiting of its products alone has risen above 10 per cent, from the earlier five per cent level that it was some few years ago. According to them “there are a lot of fake brands of mobile phones in the market and we want the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and other regulatory agencies like the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to come to our rescue.”

They suggested that the best solution to address the menace is for the regulator to adopt the Device Management Solution, which the telecoms regulator could imposed on network operators, to monitor and detect all counterfeit phones. This is just as the original manufacturers of printers and print supplies are calling on government to address the issue of counterfeiting of print supplies through policy formulation and implementation in order to save the business and the economy from collapsing.