The Anti-Counterfeit Agency was established under the Anti-Counterfeit Act 2008 as a State Corporation with the mandates to enlighten and inform the public on matters relating to counterfeiting, combat counterfeiting, trade and other dealings in counterfeit goods, devise and promote training programs to combat counterfeiting and co-ordinate with national, regional or international organizations involved in combating counterfeiting.
It is a state corporation currently within the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Trade. Although the Act was passed by Kenya’s Parliament in 2008, it came into force on 1st July 2009 with the principal aim of prohibiting trade in counterfeit goods. The Agency came into operation in June 2010.
A report launched by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga in April 2015 revealed that trade in counterfeits now rivals the country’s key foreign exchange earners such as tourism, tea and coffee.
According to the report, networks of cross-border smugglers target fast-moving and highly profitable goods to import into Kenya illegally, including food, electronics, and cosmetics.
The report, which was jointly compiled by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), the Judiciary and other interested partners, said that the trade had far-reaching health implications on consumers and cannot be ignored, as they include an upsurge in new illnesses, inefficacious drugs, and even death.
In 2013, the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) said that the most affected items in the counterfeit ring were medicinal drugs, electronics, CDs and pirated software, alcoholic drinks, mobile phones and farm inputs.
Perhaps you thought that shunning illicit brews that have already claimed hundreds of lives in several parts of the country and drinking juice would be safer, think twice. Apart from the fake liquor destroyed by KEBS in the past year, an assortment of fruit juices in various cartons were set ablaze as well. The products, all ranging from imitations to those from suspect sources, were found to have misrepresented their contents.
The dealers in fakes were smart enough to obtain packaging materials for renowned brands to disguise their substandard goods and sell them undetected using the known brand names. So heavy is the investment on the production of the packaging material that the bulk of what was destroyed included brands that are well known and trusted by consumers.
The KAM report which pointed at India and China as the major source of contraband goods, also ranked Kenya among the largest markets for counterfeit goods in East Africa. The country is said to serve as the distribution point of the products in the region. As a result, Kenya loses close to Sh70 million in revenues from trade in counterfeit goods annually, underlining the fiscal power beneath the trade that is also a big threat to revenue collection.
Counterfeits tend to be cheaper, thereby undercutting genuine dealers whose sales volumes continue to dwindle, profits to reduce, meaning less tax paid.
The Chairman of the National Alcohol Beverages Association of Kenya (NABAK), Mr Gordon Mutugi, said genuine dealers have suffered because of the illicit brewers, with the periodic crackdowns on the latter spilling over to their genuine businesses, leading to huge revenues losses.With products traditionally left outside the counterfeiting ring now slowly being included, you have to be careful to avoid being a victim.
According to a Daily Nation Newspaper article, the following are some of the ways to detect fake products:
- Price differences : Watch out for a product that is considerably cheaper than that of a similar brand on the same market. A wide difference in price should be a warning. In many cases, dealers, especially in electronics, stock both fake and the genuine items. Usually, they will first show you the fake one but quote the price of a genuine one. As you continue to bargain, they will “reluctantly” agree to your offer (sometimes as low as half the price). When you are offered a cheaper version of a product, it could be a fake.
- Locality: Some products are not usually located in certain areas and when you find them there, you should be wary. A sleek TV at an-open air market, or a designer cosmetic in a stall at Kawangware Market should be a warning. Often, fakes are found in areas where you would not typically find them.
- Appearance: If you are a regular consumer of a brand, make sure the “new look” is approved by the manufacturer. Any strange alterations to names, colouring or packaging should be noted. A strange smell, taste or feel of the packaging material should alert you about the product’s authenticity.
- Quantity: Be wary of an unusually large quantity of a product at an affordable price. The makers don’t pay taxes and use fake ingredients so they can afford to fill your basket at no extra cost.
- Brand association: Granted, many companies are diversifying but a soap bearing a brand name associated with a computer manufacturer should worry you. Fakes ride on established names, that is why you would find Mac power banks even before you learn of any the launch of such a product.
- Funny/suspect names: Another branding aspect is the use of funny names, especially very similar to renowned brands. Although some might be genuine manufacturers-turned-copy cats, some are fakes seeking to ride on the fame already created. Among the products KENBS destroyed were canned meat and crisps labelled in Chinese! How do you even tell the ingredients in a product you cannot read the language?
- Cover/Warranty: This is specific to electronics. Make sure the warranty s genuine. Find out whether you can verify its authenticity, say via SMS. Ask for something in writing, and read it carefully to know under what conditions it is applicable before signing it. If possible, test a product before taking it home.
There are a number of ways can tell whether the product purchased is genuine. For instance one can send an SMS to verify the authenticity of goods, where one sends the brand name after a # to 20023 to verify if a product is genuine (i.e. sms SM#Brand name or permit number to 20023). This platform was launched by KENBS.
The other anti-counterfeit system is know as the i-check. It is a system that enables consumers to check the validity of a product before purchasing it. It has 3 levels of security. SMS, NFC and TAMPERPROOF. The i-check is not only limited to purchased products but also academic certificates. Woe unto those who buy certificates from downtown Nairobi. Your days are numbered.