The government has announced an autumn crackdown on the counterfeit goods industry after a recent survey indicated that it has become a part of everyday life for nearly half the young people in the UK.
With a value estimated at £10bn and a lost VAT revenue of £1.7bn the Treasury has taken fright at a problem that has plagued towns and cities for decades but has got steadily worse in recent years with the explosion of fake DVDs and designer label goods. With 44% of 18 to 29 year olds happily admitting to buying fake goods it is a habit that is in danger of becoming mainstream.
Under the auspices of the Patent Office (not a department that has been prominent in crime fighting circles in the past) a specialist team of police, Customs & Excise and trading standards officers will work with owners of well-known brands to launch sting operations against the organisers of counterfeit gangs.
Although details of the proposed operations have understandably not been made public there is a weary resignation on the part of businesses that sell the real article legitimately that this will be a crackdown of limited duration before a return to business as usual for the counterfeiters.
It is not difficult to find fake goods which are sold openly on the streets every day but it seems unlikely that the small scale street vendor will receive the attention of the authorities who will target the suppliers. If this proves to be the case it is a pity because illegal street trading, whether of counterfeit goods or legitimate, is a scourge that needs to be addressed. The counterfeiters will always gravitate towards a city where they can blend in with the bazaar that many public areas have become. East Street in Brighton is a good example where there are sometimes so many street traders that it is difficult to tell who is legal and who isn’t. At all costs Brighton must avoid the New York scenario where armies of vendors push volumes of fake goods around on trolleys and use sophisticated surveillance procedures to stay one step ahead of the police who are powerless to stop them until they actually unwrap their goods and start selling.
The Business Forum works closely with trading standards and the licensing department of the Council to devise strategies to contain illegal street trading but businesses must play their part too by reporting incidents to the police and challenging traders who set up outside their shop fronts. If you want more information on street trading activity contact Soozie Campbell on 380040.
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