Piracy reaches R $ 3,5 billion in the EU


By Vivian Oswald, Special for O GLOBO, 10/02/2005

BRUSSELS. The piracy and smuggling industry has turned on the yellow light in the European Union (EU). More than handbags, clothing or designer watches, it is the simple products, used on a daily basis by the consumer, that have shown the greatest growth among fraudulent goods in the 25 countries of the bloc. According to data from the European Commission, in 2003, 92,2 million products were seized for an estimated value of one billion euros or about R $ 3,5 billion, 9% more than in the previous year. Seizures of toys and games, perfumes and cosmetics grew 996% and 801%, respectively, in the same period.

? The biggest concern is with the health and safety of the consumer. Piracy changes its products all the time in search of profits. And is the market for everyday products huge? said Maria Assimakopoulou, a spokesman for the EU Commissioner for Supervision and Customs Union.

What scares the authorities the most is that not even food, drink or medicine is safe. Piracy of these products grew 77% from 2002 to 2003. To give you an idea, 299.388 fake Viagra cards were identified in Belgium and another 147.662 in the United Kingdom. In Ireland, thousands of shampoos were seized; in Hungary, moisturizing lotions; in Italy, toothbrushes; and in Spain, soft drinks. The most curious was the case of the Netherlands, where 1.500 bottles of mineral water and 68.285 fake apples were discovered.

? The labels on the apples have been forged. The problem is that the consumer would be buying a product whose origin and, possibly, the quality would not be as indicated? said Maria Assimakopoulou.

According to the spokeswoman, the EU will redouble its efforts to try to contain piracy within its territory, which is now even greater with the entry of ten new countries in May last year.

? But one cannot have the illusion that we will achieve a miracle. There is no quick fix. We are trying to reach agreements with other countries, have we changed the legislation? says.

The biggest villains of piracy in Europe remain cigarettes. Altogether, 33,24 million units were seized, which is equivalent to 36% of the products retained in 2003. Next, CDs, DVDs and software come, with 35,4% of the total. Finland's music industry estimates that in one year, Finnish tourists going to Russia will bring around three million pirated CDs in their luggage. Detail: the country has five million inhabitants.

Internet pirated music worries

But the sector still faces a major competitor: the internet. According to data from the study? P2P networks in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ?, 10,2% of users responsible for copying and exchanging music over the internet were in Germany; 7,8%, in France; and 5,4%, in England.

For 2004, the figures are not encouraging. Preliminary statistics from the European Commission for the first three quarters of the year already indicate seizures of 74,4 million products. For toys and games alone, the numbers reach 12,27 million, almost the same value recorded in 2003. And the worst: these goods would already correspond to 16,5% of the total seized in the EU.

The main source of goods held by customs authorities in Europe is China (60%). Next comes Hong Kong, with 6%.