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Report Finds 18% of People Bought Counterfeit Gear Unwittingly in 2013

May 5, 2014
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A study reveals that while counterfeit consumer electronics are a significant concern to U.S. consumers, most seem to be unaware of the full impact and risks of their purchase and use.

The study by Canon reveals that while counterfeit consumer electronics are a significant concern to U.S. consumers, most seem to be unaware of the full impact and risks of their purchase and use. The study revealed that consumers trust their instincts, but seem to lack the understanding of the possible safety risks and the true long-term costs of counterfeit consumer electronics.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, $145 million worth of counterfeit consumer electronics entered the U.S. in 2013.ii The research commissioned by Canon reveals, however, that while three out of every four consumers surveyed were concerned about counterfeit consumer electronics, only about one in two believed they can accurately identify counterfeit consumer electronics.

"Most American consumers are unaware of the full risks associated with these potentially dangerous devices. Four in ten of the U.S. consumers surveyed don't know counterfeit consumer electronics can harm them, and this lack of awareness leads to what Canon calls a 'Confidence Trap'," said Chuck Westfall, Technical Advisor, Professional Engineering & Solutions Division, Canon U.S.A, Inc. "Based on the survey, consumers seem overconfident in their ability to spot a fake, and as a result, are at risk of possible harm."

The study revealed:

  • In 2013, 12 percent of the U.S. consumers surveyed knowingly bought fake consumer electronics, while 18 percent bought them unknowingly.
  • 40 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed were unaware that counterfeit consumer electronics may harm them.
  • 45 percent believed that counterfeit consumer electronics do the job just as well as genuine consumer electronics.
  • 97 percent wanted more information so they can identify counterfeits.
  • Millennials surveyed were five times more likely than the Baby Boomers surveyed to purchase fake goods. iii
  • While the majority of millennials (72 percent) surveyed consider themselves very knowledgeable in identifying a counterfeit consumer electronics product, about one in four continues to unknowingly buy one.

Based on the survey results, 18 percent of U.S. consumer electronic purchasers surveyed say they have unknowingly purchased counterfeit consumer electronics this past year. Further, the study revealed, overconfident in their abilities, a significant proportion of consumers surveyed fell victim to counterfeit purchases, largely unaware that they could be putting themselves at risk of inferior product performance.

When it comes to purchase drivers, according to this, the majority of consumers surveyed overwhelmingly value product performance, quality, and safety when buying an electronic good. 82 percent of respondents cited product performance and 70 percent said product safety is important to them. It seems that purchasing counterfeits is therefore largely driven by a knowledge gap. For instance, close to half (45 percent) of consumers surveyed believe that a counterfeit product does the job just as well as the genuine product.

"One of the most significant revelations of this Anti-Counterfeit Study is our obligation to take action and educate consumers about the potential health and safety risks of counterfeit consumer electronics," commented Westfall. "This research indicates that education can largely impact perceptions of counterfeit consumer electronics, and steer consumers away from making uninformed and misguided purchases. After learning about the facts, 71 percent of the U.S. consumers surveyed said that they were less likely to buy them."

For more information visit: usa.canon.com/aboutcounterfeits.

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