South Africa: Counterfeiting - The Perceived Victimless Crime

Last Updated: 13 August 2012
Article by Paul Ramara and Michael Lamont

In South Africa counterfeiting is perceived to be a victimless crime, one that is viewed as an open opportunity for the public to get a hold of a brand, be it adidas, PUMA, D&G or any other name brand or product at a cheap price.

The reality however is completely the opposite, counterfeiting is a crime, the Counterfeit Goods Act 37 of 1997, specifically defines the dealing in counterfeit goods as a criminal offence. The crime itself is in fact far from victimless, the TAX revenue that is lost due to counterfeits being imported ,incorrectly declared and sold is estimated to be in excess of R2.5 billion in excise and VAT annually for counterfeit cigarettes alone. The loss of jobs due to counterfeiting is astounding. During 2010 it was estimated by the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union that 14,400 jobs were lost in the textile industry alone due to counterfeit garments being imported and sold. This does not even take into consideration the potential jobs lost as a result of this crime in all the other industries.

Counterfeiting is not only limited to DVD's, clothing and cigarettes, but in fact affects every industry and every type of product. A few examples are circuit breakers, brake pads, sweets, shoe polish and even lifesaving medicines, which all are regularly counterfeited by these unscrupulous individuals. The victims of this crime are everyday people who are ignorant or unaware of the potential harm that they are exposing themselves to. Some of these "cheap" sweets contain substances that are far in excess of the government agreed levels which could result in physical harm to unknowing children.  When one contemplates the potential disasters that could occur when an unsuspecting "victim" falls foul to a deceitful supplier of a counterfeit circuit breaker one has to ask if this victimless crime is in fact victimless at all.

Possibly the saddest part of all of this is that most people are not aware of these consequences. The allure of a cheap brand name is too much for some. The behind the scene occurrences are easily forgotten and justified. Everyone has seen, read or heard of a story where the international corporation is bullying the little guy, however what about the international corporations, they have invested copious amounts of time and money into developing their brands and products. The brand itself is a promise to the consumer; a promise of quality and an assurance of peace of mind. The counterfeiters do not have the same regard for the quality or the assurance that a certain brand provides and as a result the product that is produced is done at the cheapest cost possible. Often this is done through the use of inferior quality materials, lack of proper testing and in most cases a disregard for the consumer after the sale. Yet the general public is still inclined to take the side of the "little guy".

In most cases the trading in counterfeit goods is in fact done by or at least controlled by foreigners, who are in South Africa on asylum or student visas and in a number of cases without any official capacity. The "little guy" is not really that little. The consignments of counterfeit goods that enter South Africa on a daily basis are worth millions of Rands, yet the little guy is victimised by the international corporation protecting their brand.

Entertain the scenario of a taxi driver that in order to cut costs buys a set of brake pads from a back street mechanic for a much cheaper price than at a reputable mechanic or trader. This taxi driver now continues to convey passengers from point to point however the brake pads that he has fitted are counterfeit; they do not meet the required standard set by the automotive industry and fail as he is transporting a capacity fare. What are the potential dangers of these counterfeit goods now? Who are the victims in this scenario?

Through the cooperative efforts of the South African Police Service, The Department of Trade and Industry, The South African Revenue Service and the relevant brand holders and their attorneys, numerous search and seizure operations and border stops take place on a daily basis in an attempt to minimise the impact and the number of victims of this illicit activity. However due to the sheer volumes of counterfeit goods being imported and traded in on a daily basis the only way to truly address this issue is to alert the general public to the dangers and the true costs associated with this crime. The public in general need to acknowledge the risks associated with this crime and stop supporting these criminals.

The possible reasons that counterfeiting is perceived to be victimless is in part due to the misperception of the general public and the lack of awareness of this crime. People in general perceive counterfeiting only to affect the clothing and entertainment industries; however the scourge of counterfeiting is far further reaching and has the potential to put people's lives at risk.

The financial harm alone that is done to the South African economy by this "victimless crime" is in fact almost impossible to quantify. It can however easily be pictured. Consider for a moment the number of low cost homes that could be built, the number of additional Police officials that could be employed, and the amount of additional services that could be provided such as health care or even the contribution that could be made to fund the new roads in Gauteng, if indeed these counterfeits were stopped and the actual finances declared and paid to the state.

Is it really a victimless crime or are the consequences of counterfeiting far more?

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.