People are naturally drawn to all things beautiful. In purchasing bags for instance, most people look for something that is appealing and trendy. These days, people have also come to include durability to what they consider beautiful, as with products and other merchandise. This explains why despite the exorbitant amount that comes with products like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel, to name a few, consumers still buy branded products. The logic behind this buying trend is that if a product carries a name that has withstood the test of time and the tough market competition, the consumer gets the assurance that the product will last for years without its beauty fading easily.
This is why I am puzzled by the amount of counterfeit products that are being sold in the market today. It is undeniable that a counterfeit good looks almost exactly the same as the original product; however, there couldn’t be any way for both products to have the same materials. Materials, as well as craftsmanship, characterize the superb quality of authentic products, and if these are not present in counterfeit products, then they should not be made available in the market. However, this is not the case at all. Counterfeit products continue to circulate in all parts of the world, which only means that there are people patronizing them. This is baffling but real, which led me into thinking why there are people who buy counterfeit products. If they are counterfeit products, are they safe to use? What are the ethical issues involve in purchasing counterfeit products?
The United Nations launched a campaign that discourages consumers from buying counterfeit products due to their connection with organized crime groups. According to the campaign called “Counterfeit: Don’t buy into organized crime,” counterfeit products are not only limited to bags and accessories, but include “counterfeit tyres, brake pads and airbags, aeroplane parts, electrical consumer goods, baby formula and children’s toys” (UN News Centre). These products are used to ensure people’s health and safety, which requires the assurance that they are safe to use or consume. However, the information that links counterfeit goods to organized crime groups does not promise such guarantee.
Criminal groups are behind the proliferation of counterfeit products, and as such, the said products are not safe for the consumers, especially with counterfeit medicines. In addition, this campaign provided me with answers on how these products are illegally manufactured, transported, and sold without being detected and caught by the police. The campaign highlights the ethical issue of supporting criminals when purchasing counterfeit products. Since these products are copied from the original ones, sales from selling them do not go to the people involved in their production. Designers and researchers conceive ideas, test their validity, and produce products to improve human lives, but due to counterfeiting, the people who are responsible for the production of the said products don’t get the profits that they deserve. In sum, purchasing counterfeit products can kill counterfeit products but empowers crime groups and their activities.
The fashion industry has also been infiltrated by counterfeiting. A study conducted by Bryan, Choi and Chen attributed the ethical issues surrounding the counterfeiting of clothes to the fashion industry itself. It is common knowledge that copying is condoned. In a situation where one is caught of copying a design, they can be persecuted. However, the authors tell that in the history of counterfeiting, there are only a few people who were punished. Designers at times chose to simply settle the case in order to avoid publicity (Bryan, Choi and Jen 19). The authors argue that it is the designers’ rights to benefit from their creations. However, poor people also argue their right to make a living that they believe are going to be profitable. This is a valid argument, which gives rise to the ethical issue of whether it is acceptable to copy original materials or not. Looking at the moral rights of both the designers and the copier, both have the right to manufacture products and sell them. However, the designers of authentic items seem to be at a disadvantage. Similar with the issue raised by the UN, counterfeiting clothing designs may also lead to the demise of the fashion business.
Vida’s study titled “Determinants of Consumer Willingness to Purchase Non-deceptive Counterfeit Products,” discusses some of the reasons why there are people who buy counterfeited goods. Vida indicates that one major reason why people support counterfeit products is due to the price advantages of counterfeits compared to the genuine ones. Cheaper price enables individuals to experience the product even though it is only a copy. Similarly, an individual’s perception of the social consequences that refer to the social risks attached at purchasing fake products also pushes people to buy counterfeit items (Vida 257). Vida explains that people who are under pressure can either be pushed to break or follow the rules. Thus, people who are embarrassed at getting caught using fake products are less likely to purchase counterfeit ones (Vida 258). There are also those innovative people who patronize fake products in order to experience the novelty of having new products. In contrast to people who worry about social consequences, innovative people who are unafraid of getting caught using fake merchandise are also those people who will more willingly purchase fake products. Vida’s study provided me with the understanding that the reasons why people buy counterfeit products is because of their attitudes toward counterfeit products, perceptions of social consequences, and their intuitiveness regarding new products in general (Vida).
The issue of ethics regarding purchasing counterfeit products leads me to the understanding of the various issues surrounding the illicit trade. Counterfeit products continue to pervade the market because of the people behind it. Organized crime groups hold power that enable them to continuously operate illegally. In the fashion industry, tradition and moral dilemma are the at core of the issue. With the continuous supply of counterfeit products in the market, consumers are presented with opportunities to experience new products either with or without fear of being judged by society at cheaper prices. However, the fact remains that the producers of the original products being copied are cheated out of their rights to enjoy the benefits of their labor. Legitimate businesses are also at the losing end, and with businesses suffering the economy is guaranteed to follow. To sum up, counterfeit products should not be patronized for its production to stop and to avoid its foreseeable negative effects to be avoided.
Hilton, Brian, Chong Ju Choi and Stephen Chen. “The Ethics of Counterfeiting in the Fashion
Industry: Quality, Credence and Profit Issues.” Journal of Business Ethics. 55 (2004): 345-354. community.wvu.edu. Web. 19 April 2014.
“New UN campaign spotlights links between organized crime and counterfeit goods.” un.org.
UN News Centre. 14 January 2014. Web. 19 April 2014.
Vida, Irena. “Determinants of Consumer Willingness to Purchase Non-Deceptive Counterfeit
Products.” Managing Global Transitions. 3.5 (2007): 253-270. Web. 19 April 2014.