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BPG demands action over counterfeit trade

Brand owners unite to challenge UAE authorities over illegal goods traders.

The Brand Owners’ Protection Group (BPG) is calling for UAE authorities to ‘lock up’ counterfeit goods traders in a bid to tackle the growing problem of fake consumer electronics goods in the country.

The BPG, an umbrella group whose members include Philips Electronics, convened in September 2006 to launch several initiatives combating the counterfeit goods trade and to enforce intellectual property protection in the UAE.

A special investigation in last month’s issue of ECN revealed the depth of counterfeit mobile accessories trade in Dubai, with authorities and industry at loggerheads to stop it.

Urging harsher action against offenders, Omar Shteiwi, regional intellectual property adviser to BPG member, Nestlé Middle East, said: “Normally rulings in criminal cases vary between fines and imprisonment but I must say the fines are rather low considering the crime”.

“Therefore, I strongly urge the courts to impose the highest penalties against counterfeiters, including imprisonment,” he added.

Shteiwi said that top of the BPG’s agenda was the initiation of an economic impact study, to be carried out by independent consultancy firm KPMG Audit, to identify the scale of the counterfeiting problem.

“We cannot comment on how much the trade costs our businesses,” said Shteiwi. “We prefer to have the figures collated independently before we comment any further.”

The findings should be published in early-2007.

Other moves being considered include establishing three cluster groups to lobby the government for a crackdown on counterfeit goods trade.

The Group’s proposed motions include recommending legislation to government bodies and overseeing the training of customs staff and special police units.

“BPG is working hard to fight illicit goods trade,” said Shteiwi.

“To increase our effectiveness, we have established specialised working groups to implement our objectives in the fields of government liaison, best practices and enforcement.”

Shteiwi said the BPG was liaising with various government authorities including the Dubai Department of Economic Development, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Customs and the police department.

Shteiwi applauded the UAE government’s decision to introduce new consumer protection laws this month and to establish the Higher Committee for Consumer Protection (HCCP) to oversee these laws.

The HCCP will be chaired by the Minister of Economy, Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi.

“We are sure consumers all over the region will welcome our efforts to ensure that only genuine products are delivered when they part with their hard-earned cash,” Shteiwi added.

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