The electrocution death of Ma Ailun, who was using a non-OEM charger with a mobile gadget, in China earlier this year demonstrates the risks posed by counterfeit IT products.
The Intellectual Property Office released an annual crime report recently that suggested IT equipment counterfeiting sparked more investigations this year.
Conversely, over the past year, the number of investigations of potential fake software and computer games reduced – owing to a switch to internet downloads and an increase in gaming industry campaigns.
Some manufacturers release online guides and tag products with QR codes to help protect customers and the supply chain. However, the increased complexity in the OEM global supply network and manufacturing in low-cost regions across Asia and Eastern Europe helps counterfeit components enter the supply chain.
In the US, counterfeit components and products constitute a billion-dollar industry.
To help combat the rise in fake products entering the UK, the government has further tightened its policy on the practice and legislation now offers OEMs the same level of protection that prohibits the distribution of pirated DVDs, with offenders receiving up to 10 years in prison.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills recently announced £2.5m in funding for a new police unit aimed at tackling online piracy and counterfeit goods.
If these initiatives are to succeed, the industry must support them. It's essential that we prevent the problem from getting worse and affecting sales further.
We need to collectively warn buyers of the dangers of buying cheap fakes. And we need to act now to protect buyer confidence in the UK IT sector.
At the same time, we need to better understand the actual scale of the UK problem to plan how best to tackle it.
This requires more research, communication and assurances, as well as working with the OEM community to stop fake components from entering the supply chain and manufacturing infrastructure.
We cannot have the integrity of finished products compromised.
Gary Price is a business analyst at Probrand
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