Editorial | Of Customs and counterfeits
The dangers of counterfeit goods may not be immediately understood by persons who find it hard to resist a bargain, but we urge persons to heed the warning of Jamaica Customs about the potential risks faced by using such illegal products.
Commissioner of Customs Velma Ricketts Walker sounded the public warning recently by citing possible endangerment, including health risks.
She made specific reference to pharmaceuticals, some of which have been found to be coated with common household paints or some contained incorrect dosage, and in extreme cases, poison. Other defective items include gas cylinders, personal-care items such as shampoos, toys, and automotive parts.
Jamaica Customs dumped more than $65 million worth of counterfeit or below-par products up to September of this year, the department has advised.
The warning from Jamaica Customs is particularly important during the upcoming festive season when imports are expected to flood the island from diverse parts of the world. Counterfeit goods could conceivably be disguised among the stream of legitimate shipments.
It is also likely that the volume of goods may prevent the desired rigorous inspections as Customs seeks to speedily release goods into the commercial trade. The reality is that only a sample of imports can be screened each day. Some fake goods will be missed and will hit the streets.
We urge Customs and partner agencies such as Bureau of Standards Jamaica and the police to strengthen enforcement and vigilance at this time. The likely answer to this exhortation, though, is the lack of resources and manpower. And, yes, Customs must be given the requisite tools and resources to make detection and audit of the origin of goods easier.
So how do consumers ensure that the goods they buy pass muster? Short of a comprehensive education campaign, it means being personally alert and observant. For example, look at the workmanship of a product. If it is poorly stitched, branding is askew or misspelt, these are red flags.
Price is also a determining factor. If an item is being sold way below the regular price, it could be outdated or fake.
At a time when consumers want to stretch that dollar, the purveyors of fake goods are fully aware that there is growing demand for their items. After all, everyone likes to think they are getting a bargain, but who wants to unwittingly support a counterfeiter who may be using the proceeds from sales to fund dangerous criminal activities?
Sidewalk vending, where there is very little monitoring, usually experiences a boon during this heightened shopping season, with a variety of toys being offered for sale. With no regard for the health and safety of the consumer and zero consideration for infringing on the intellectual property of others, persons will find ways and means of peddling their wares.
Jamaica Customs exists to ensure that the Government is not cheated out of its revenue, which is critical to the nation's economic vitality, but its role is much broader than being the excise police.
It also has a mandate to disrupt illicit trade that will hurt the economy and intercept harmful products before they get to the consumers.