Counterfeit mobile goods a ‘serious problem’ in the UK


Case manufacturer OtterBox sets up fraud unit to tackle £2.3 billion market

Smartphone case manufacturer OtterBox has launched a new UK-based department to tackle the “serious problem” of counterfeit goods circulating in this country.

According to Home Office figures, the counterfeit goods market in the UK is valued at £1.3 billion a year, and around £731 million a year in Ireland.

OtterBox said products that infringe intellectual property (IP) are increasingly entering the EU market as a result of the growth of online shopping.

The firm’s new ‘Brand Protection Department’, based in Cork, Ireland, will monitor online sales activities by working closely with online service providers such as Amazon and eBay to help shut down and “break the chain of supply of counterfeit products”.

OtterBox told Mobile News it is currently preparing law suits against a number of unnamed companies which it accuses of producing “ripped-off” versions of its products. It said it cannot name them for legal reasons.

Rachael Lamkin, associate general counsel for OtterBox, said: “Counterfeiting has become a serious problem for OtterBox. We are serious about protecting the OtterBox portfolio of products and the brand as a whole.”

OtterBox EMEA brand protection specialist Claire Lyonshall (pictured) added: “OtterBox wants to ensure its customers receive the high-quality product they expect, rather than an inferior and ineffective fake. It’s our top priority to stop the sale of counterfeit and ‘knock-off’ products.”

Growing problem
She continued: “Consumers are the victims of these deceptive practices. Counterfeit OtterBox cases lead some consumers to believe they have just made a bargain purchase, but the low price tag means poor quality and a bad reflection of our brand. If you find a deal that is too good to be true, then it is.”

A recent Home Office report on IP theft between April 2011 and March 2012, revealed 125,249 fake mobile accessories, 2,012 counterfeit phones and 1,583 bogus iPhones, iPads and MP3 players were seized by the UK Border Force.

The National Fraud Authority – the government agency which helps to coordinate the fight against fraud in the UK – said the number of counterfeit electrical goods seized has risen from £2.6 million in 2009 to £15.7 million in 2012. It added many fraudsters use the proceeds from selling counterfeit goods to fund drug dealing and other types of organised crime.

In the same period 1,493 counterfeit mobile accessories were seized by Trading Standards, with 747 found in Surrey, 462 in Westminster and 284 by the  organisation’s London division.

Mobile News contacted a number of major accessories manufacturers trading in the UK, including Samsung, Nokia, BlackBerry and Jabra, but all declined to comment.