The global counterfeit crisis: Understanding the scope and impact

Counterfeit goods pose a significant threat not only to the economy but also to consumer safety and brand integrity. With the global trade in counterfeit goods expected to exceed $3 trillion, businesses must adopt advanced measures to protect their products and reputation. – René Fischer-Bernard, Co-founder


Counterfeiting is a pervasive and growing problem that affects numerous industries worldwide. As counterfeit products become more sophisticated, their impact on the global economy, brand integrity, and consumer safety intensifies. This article explores the scale of the counterfeit goods problem, its economic ramifications, and the steps being taken to combat this menace.


The scale of counterfeiting

The global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods is a massive industry, with estimates suggesting it could surpass $3 trillion by 2022. Counterfeit goods account for around 3.3% of global trade, a significant portion that impacts numerous sectors. In the European Union (EU), imports of counterfeit goods reached EUR 119 billion in 2019, representing 5.8% of all goods entering the region (Supply Chain Resource Cooperative) (Mondaq) .

3.3% OF GLOBAL TRADE Involves counterfeit goods
3.3% of Global TradeInvolves counterfeit goods
3.3% OF GLOBAL TRADE Involves counterfeit goods
10% of Global PharmaceuticalsAre counterfeit in developing regions
OVER 25% OF CONSUMERS Have unwittingly purchased counterfeit goods online
Over 25% of ConsumersHave unwittingly purchased counterfeit goods online

Industries affected

  1. Pharmaceuticals:
    • An estimated 10% of medical products in developing countries are counterfeit, posing severe health risks. In the EU, counterfeit medications are increasingly common, with significant public health implications ( – OECD) (Mondaq) .
  2. Luxury Goods and Fashion:
    • Counterfeiting heavily impacts luxury brands in segments such as watches, clothing, bags, and sports brands. This widespread issue results in significant revenue losses and brand devaluation. In the EU, the clothing industry loses nearly EUR 12 billion annually due to counterfeit goods (Food Safety News) (Mondaq) .
  3. Food and Beverages:
    • Counterfeit food products are a growing concern in the EU, where foodstuffs such as cookies, pasta, crisps, and sweets are frequently confiscated. Counterfeit food often involves substandard or harmful ingredients, posing severe health risks (Food Safety News) .
  4. Electronics:
    • Fake electronics, including items like phone chargers, often fail safety standards, leading to potential consumer injuries. This category is among the most frequently counterfeited, affecting both consumer trust and safety ( – OECD) .

Industry losses due to counterfeiting

Industry Losses Due to Counterfeiting Chart

Economic impact: The economic impact of counterfeiting is staggering. In 2018 alone, counterfeit goods caused approximately $323 billion in damage to the global economy. The EU faces a similar burden, with counterfeit goods leading to billions in lost sales and tax revenues, along with significant job losses across multiple sectors (Visual Capitalist) (Food Safety News) .

Consumer safety and trust: Beyond economic losses, counterfeit goods pose significant risks to consumer safety. Fake pharmaceuticals can lead to health complications or death, while counterfeit electronics can cause injuries due to substandard materials and construction. These dangers underscore the importance of authenticating products and educating consumers on the risks associated with counterfeit goods (Food Safety News) .

Combating counterfeiting: Efforts to combat counterfeiting are multifaceted, involving governments, businesses, and consumers. Strategies include:

  • Legal enforcement: Strengthening intellectual property laws and improving enforcement mechanisms.
  • Technology solutions: Utilizing blockchain and advanced tracking technologies to authenticate products.
  • Consumer education: Raising awareness about the prevalence of counterfeit goods and how to identify them.



Counterfeiting is a global issue with far-reaching consequences. By understanding the scope of the problem and supporting efforts to combat it, we can protect consumers, preserve brand integrity, and safeguard the economy. The next articles in this series will delve deeper into specific industries affected by counterfeiting and showcase innovative solutions being implemented to address this challenge.