Madrid - One in every 10 Europeans has been duped into buying counterfeit products, mostly coming from Asia, according to a study by the EU's intellectual property office (EUIPO).
Many consumers struggle to differentiate between authentic products and fakes, said the study by EUIPO which is based in the Spanish coastal city of Alicante.
Counterfeit products account for 6.8 percent of the European Union's imports and are worth 121 billion euros ($147 billion) according to figures from EUIPO and the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Counterfeits are present in all sectors from clothing to electronics, toys and wine, with 9.0 percent of European "admitting they had been duped into making such a purchase," the study found on Tuesday.
But the percentage varies widely by country, with 12 percent in Spain, 9 percent in France, 19 percent in Bulgaria and 2 percent in Switzerland.
In a context where e-commerce is booming globally due to the pandemic, in which 70 percent of Europeans shopped online last year, Eurostat figures show, "the ability to identify counterfeit products remains problematic for EU citizens", the study says.
EUIPO says 33 percent of Europeans "have already wondered about the authenticity of a product they've bought".
EUIPO head Christian Archambeau also flagged the "rise in the number of counterfeit medications and healthcare products which can have adverse effects on people's health and safety".
According to another EUIPO study published earlier this year, the main countries of origin for counterfeit medications are China and India, while the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Singapore serve as "transit hubs" for such products, whose global value in March 2020 amounted to $5 million.
Such products, which include everything from painkillers to antibiotics and even face masks, are largely destined for Africa, the United States and Europe, but also Albania, Ukraine and Morocco.
They are mostly transported by ship, with "80 percent of the global value of containers seized worldwide" originating from China and Hong Kong, the EUIPO study said.
It also drew attention to the "lucrative" piracy of television content that is accessed online, which in the EU is worth more than $1 billion every year, with the resulting impact felt by content creators and legitimate businesses.