Counterfeiting and the EU Consumer Agenda

Published: December 2, 2020

European Union institutions recently took action on consumer protection policies. INTA, through its Europe Representative Office, advocated for the inclusion of anticounterfeiting provisions in these policies. Ultimately, on a positive note, they were included in a recently adopted EU parliamentary report. However, a parallel EU Commission Consumer Agenda did not address anticounterfeiting.

Counterfeiting is among INTA’s policy priority issues. Since the start of the 2019 mandates of the EU Parliament in May, and the EU Commission in December, the Europe Representative Office has raised the negative impact of counterfeits on the health and safety of consumers, most notably through the Association’s Brand Manifesto.

On November 13, the European Commission published a new EU Consumer Agenda, as announced in its work program for the year 2020. The Agenda “will align consumer protection with today’s realities, notably cross-border and online transactions. It will allow consumers to make informed choices and play an active role in the ecological and digital transitions.”

This Consumer Agenda lists a series of legislative and non-legislative initiatives to be undertaken by the Commission before the end of the term, in November 2024. This includes a possible review of the 2001 General Product Safety Directive (GPSD), which provides the legal framework for the safety of non-food consumer products.

The EU Parliament, on its end, commissioned a non-legislative report on “Addressing Product Safety in the Single Market.” It will provide preliminary political recommendations on the EU Consumer Agenda and GPSD. As the EU co-legislator with the Council, the EU Parliament will ultimately have the power to review and amend any potential legislative proposal on the GPSD emanating from the European Commission.

INTA’s Advocacy Actions

INTA advocated early for the inclusion of anticounterfeiting provisions in the scope of the Agenda as well as in the GPSD, and provided three different inputs to the EU Commission:

  1. Input to the Roadmap on the New EU Consumer Agenda;
  2. Input to the public consultation on the New EU Consumer Agenda, which included specific questions on the GPSD; and
  3. A dedicated paper for the EU Commission. highlighting the rationale behind the inclusion of counterfeiting as well as proposing specific amendments to the GPSD to do so.

In parallel, INTA also proposed suggestions for amendments to include anticounterfeiting provisions in the scope of the Parliament’s report.

Successes and Shortcomings

INTA succeeded on the Parliament front with the November 24 adoption of the Parliament report. It includes the suggested inclusion of counterfeiting, namely:

  • Recital: “whereas in the EU, a high number of counterfeit goods have been reported as dangerous and have posed a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers.
  • Paragraph: The Parliament “underlines that although market surveillance activities are aimed at protecting general public interests, while counterfeited products relate to the protection of private intellectual property rights, there is a relation between counterfeited products and risks to the health and safety of consumers; urges the Commission, therefore, to get a better and clearer picture of the counterfeiting phenomenon and of the possible role that market surveillance authorities and online marketplaces could play in better protecting the health and safety of EU consumers, including through the effective enforcement of customs legislation and the harmonisation of customs controls throughout the EU; encourages the use of new technologies such as AI and blockchain by market surveillance authorities to ensure that data analytics can be used to mitigate risk, improve compliance with product safety legislation and protect consumers against counterfeited products.

Meanwhile, unfortunately, the EU Commission did not include anticounterfeiting in the scope of its New EU Consumer Agenda. The Agenda notably states that “the forthcoming proposal for a revision of the General Product Safety Directive [is] foreseen for 2021.”

What’s Next?

INTA will step up its advocacy efforts before the EU Commission to emphasize the need to include strong anticounterfeiting provisions in the scope of the 2021 review of the GPSD. This will be a difficult exercise, given the lack of reference to counterfeiting in the Consumer Agenda itself.

In addition, INTA will continue its work with the two co-legislators, the Council and the EU Parliament, which will ultimately have to amend and adopt a position on the review of the GPSD to ensure the inclusion of anticounterfeiting in future legislation.

INTA’s Europe Representative Office, based in Brussels, Belgium, represents the Association’s 1,700 members across Europe (including those in EU and non-EU member states, and Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States). Working in collaboration with staff at INTA’s headquarters in New York City, the Europe Representative Office leads the Association’s policy, membership, marketing, and communications initiatives throughout the region. To learn more about INTA’s activities in Europe, please contact INTA Chief Europe Representative Officer Hélène Nicora at [email protected] and follow us on Twitter at @INTABrussels.  

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest. 

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