FICCI CASCADE (Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy) jointly with The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT), issued a statement warning consumers about the risks and growing availability of fake, falsified and substandard medical, healthcare and other products.
Both organizations, known for mitigating illicit trade across industry sectors worldwide, reports a surge in ineffective, fraudulent products that undermine public health and efforts to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anil Rajput, Chairman, FICCI CASCADE said, “Arresting the sale of illicit goods at the time of this unprecedented crisis needs our immediate and unwavering attention. It is well known that illicit trade exacerbates unemployment, bleeds the economy and causes tremendous harm to the health and safety of the people. The current situation which is already witnessing a severe socio-economic distress, sale of fake and smuggled goods will only worsen the problem. Stern actions should be taken to see that criminals do not profit from this pandemic by selling illicit products.”
Jeffrey Hardy, Director-General, TRACIT said, “Emergency response measures to protect people from the COVID-19 virus must include the urgent need to protect them from fake, falsified and substandard medical products and medicines. Someone wearing a falsified or substandard surgical face mask is not only at risk of exposure, but it creates a false sense of security that can actually accelerate the spread to others.”
Worldwide reports indicate an increase in the availability and type of fraudulent medical products intended to exploit the fears of consumers, which includes illicit offerings of falsified versions of treatments such as Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin that will harm or kill already vulnerable patients. Joint operations by the World Customs Organization, Europol and Interpol have resulted in a significant increase in seizures of counterfeit and unauthorized face masks and hand sanitizers.
“Expectations are that the availability of fakes and fraudulent products on the Internet will increase dramatically, especially with the closure of retail stores and the imposition of population distancing strategies,” said Hardy.
“People must be especially careful with the social media, where outright fraud and advertising of fakes is already a major problem,” he added.
While the Indian government is continuously intensifying efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus by enacting various measures to support public health systems, safeguard the economy and ensure the safety of its citizens, illegal operators are taking full advantage of the pandemic. It is evident that they will use shortages in the supply of some goods to increasingly provide illicit alternatives such as food and grocery items, medicines, sanitary and medical products, indoor sports equipment, cigarettes, liquor etc., both online and offline.
In the long run, FICCI CASCADE and TRACIT expressed concern that the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the urgent need for a strong international policy framework to combat the illicit trade of fake, falsified and substandard medical products and medicines.
FICCI CASCADE and TRACIT called for immediate action by governments, law enforcement, Internet platforms and brand owners:
Governments to prioritize the response to fraud among COVID-19 emergency measures, allocate resources to blocking distribution of fakes, warn consumers about the risks of fake and fraudulent products, especially online sales, and impose immediate sanctions on the manufacture and sale of fraudulent COVID-19 related products.
Law enforcement to clamp down on violators, increase vigilance for stolen, tampered and expired medical products and medicines, and establish a coordinated national strategy to share intelligence, best practices and cooperate on cross-border investigations.
Internet eCommerce platforms to amplify policing and takedown of online sales of counterfeit and fraudulent COVID-19 related products.
Brand owners to increase security of supply chains for genuine COVID-19 related medical products and medicines, share data with law enforcement where supply chains have been compromised and raise awareness about online shopping fraud.