Economic impact of counterfeiting in EU - in the clothing, cosmetics, and toy sectors.

In the shadows of legitimate commerce, a pervasive threat looms over the European industries: counterfeiting. With counterfeit goods siphoning off a staggering EUR 16 billion in sales annually and displacing nearly 200,000 jobs, the European Union faces a formidable challenge. From the fashion runways to the shelves of cosmetics and toy stores, the impact of counterfeit goods reverberates through key sectors, undermining consumer trust and economic stability. In this exposé, we delve into the sobering reality of counterfeiting and explore Europe's concerted efforts to combat this insidious phenomenon.

Apr 23, 2024

Welcome, discerning consumers, industry insiders, and concerned citizens, to an urgent examination of the pervasive threat of counterfeiting. In the corridors of commerce, a shadowy underworld thrives, siphoning billions of euros from legitimate businesses and casting a pall over the European Union's economic landscape. Join us as we delve into the sobering reality of counterfeiting and Europe's resolute efforts to stem this tide of illicit activity.

Key Figures:

  • The legitimate clothing industry lost almost EUR 12 billion of sales as an annual average in 2018-2021, representing 5.2 % of clothing sales in the EU.
  • As a consequence of sales lost due to counterfeiting, the clothing industry employed 160 000 fewer people each year in the same period.
  • The estimated lost cosmetics sales due to counterfeiting amount to EUR 3 billion, corresponding to 4.8 % of total sales.
  • The lost employment in the EU cosmetics industry is estimated at almost 32 000 people.
  • The toy sector suffers the highest ratio of sales lost due to counterfeiting: 8.7 %, corresponding to EUR 1 billion.
  • The toy sector employed 3 600 fewer people due to counterfeiting.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has sounded the alarm: counterfeiting exacts a heavy toll on EU industries, resulting in annual losses of EUR 16 billion in sales and the displacement of nearly 200,000 jobs. These figures, drawn from a recent study spanning the years 2018 to 2021, underscore the profound impact of counterfeit goods on key sectors such as clothing, cosmetics, and toys.

In the realm of fashion, counterfeit apparel inundates the market, eroding consumer confidence and chipping away at legitimate sales. The clothing industry bears the brunt of this onslaught, hemorrhaging EUR 12 billion annually, equivalent to 5.2% of the sector's total turnover. Equally affected are the cosmetics and toy industries, which suffer losses of EUR 3 billion and EUR 1 billion, respectively. These staggering figures not only represent economic setbacks but also translate into tangible job losses, with 160,000 positions disappearing in the clothing sector alone.

Clothing-annual losses per country / Millions of Eur / 2018-2021, Source Data: EUIPO Report
Cosmetics -annual losses per country / Millions of EUR / 2018-2021, Source Data: EUIPO Report
Toys- annual losses per country / Millions of EUR / 2018-2021, Source Data: EUIPO Report

Beyond the financial ramifications, counterfeiting poses grave risks to public health and safety. Counterfeit cosmetics and toys, often manufactured without adherence to quality standards, present a clear and present danger to consumers. A disturbing 15% of counterfeit articles seized at EU borders are found to be hazardous, further underscoring the urgency of the issue.

In response to this multifaceted threat, Europe has adopted a comprehensive strategy to combat counterfeiting. The EUIPO collaborates closely with EUROPOL, OLAF, and the European Commission, pooling resources and expertise to tackle this pervasive problem. Through targeted enforcement efforts and enhanced cooperation, authorities are working tirelessly to disrupt counterfeit networks and safeguard the integrity of European markets.

João Negrão, Executive Director of the EUIPO, emphasizes the gravity of the situation: "Counterfeit goods have real costs – for consumers, for brands, and for our economies." As Europe confronts the scourge of counterfeiting head-on, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to remain vigilant and united in the fight against this insidious threat to prosperity and public welfare.

SOURCE of data & images: 

Original EUIPO study available here:

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