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What to do with Counterfeit Goods

While most counterfeit goods imported from overseas will be seized and destroyed by the Australian Border Force (ABF), if you have inadvertently bought or somehow managed to come in possession of counterfeit goods, you will need to proceed with reporting it and then destroying the item. However, don’t hold your breath for reimbursement.

What Should I do with the Counterfeit?

Make a complaint to the relevant fair trading or consumer affairs office and report the case to Crimestoppers as an intellectual property theft case. Try to include as many details as you can, such as where you purchased it. From there, you should let the police handle the seizure of counterfeit goods and ensure those responsible will be apprehended.

Counterfeit goods seized by the UK Border Force. (Photo credit: UK Home Office, via flickr)

If you purchased the item online from an overseas seller, then the most you can do is notify the police. While an investigation may proceed, there is not much the police can do to combat an overseas seller. In which case, you could try dealing with the appropriate consumer affairs office of the country of origin.

Finally, you can also report the counterfeit item to – an international consumer protection network that alerts consumers of scams; and The Counterfeit Report – a database of counterfeit goods and how to identify them.

As for the item itself, you will need to destroy or dispose it. If it’s an electrical device, dispose of it responsibly, this means not the general waste bin. Take the device to an electronics recycler, where it will be safely dismantled and recycled if possible. Counterfeit drugs and cosmetics should be taken to a pharmacy that’s part of the Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) project. As for clothing and accessories, search for a clothing recycler.

IMPORTANT: Do not attempt to resell the counterfeit or send it back to the seller, as trafficking counterfeit goods is illegal. The distribution and selling of counterfeit goods can land you a $99,000 fine and up to 5 years imprisonment (Trade Marks Act 1995).

Can I Get My Money Back?

Unfortunately, no. Do not expect to be reimbursed by the police or any government agency for your financial loss. There’s nothing you can do outside of reporting the seller to the police. If a physical cash transaction was involved, tracking down the seller and demanding your money back can be dangerous and is unadvisable.

However, for online payments, there is a chance that you might get a refund. Contact your bank or the service that transacted the payment and proceed with lodging a claim. PayPal can offer protection if an item doesn't match the seller's description – this includes counterfeits, for transactions up to $20,000.

Counterfeiting is a major issue facing Australian businesses. The sooner you report a counterfeit, the faster the supply of these items can be stopped. Once a counterfeiter has your money, don’t expect to see it ever again. If you were duped into buying a counterfeit, unfortunately you will have to live with the financial loss and properly destroy or dispose of the counterfeit.

To avoid accidentally purchasing a counterfeit, educate yourself on how to spot a counterfeit, both in person and online.

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