A new report out today reveals that more than six out of ten customs seizures of counterfeit or pirated goods are of small parcels sent through postal or courier services.

The research, carried out by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), shows that although large container shipments account for the biggest amount of counterfeit traffic by volume and value, customs authorities are increasingly seizing small parcel shipments of counterfeit and pirated goods.

The report shows that these small shipments tend to be in packages of 10 items or less and that virtually all industry sectors use small shipments, albeit to different degrees.

Small consumer items are particularly affected by small shipments. According to the study, 84 % of all seized shipments of counterfeit footwear, 77 % of all seized shipments of fake optical, photographic and medical equipment products (mostly sunglasses) and 63 % of all seized shipments of fake watches, leather articles (like belts), handbags and jewellery, were in small parcel form.

In addition, over half of all global customs seizures of postal parcels contained just one item.

The Executive Director of the EUIPO, Christian Archambeau, said:

‘Our report tracks a growing - and worrying - phenomenon in counterfeit trade, in that small parcel shipments sent via post or courier services are harder for customs officials to track and seize. We hope that these findings will be of use to policymakers as they devise methods to combat counterfeiting. This being said, the bulk of counterfeit imports into the EU comes mainly via containers and other maritime shipments.  Our earlier joint research with OECD has shown that 2.5% of world trade - equivalent to EUR 338 billion per year and 5% of EU imports - is of counterfeits.'

The report underlines the challenges faced by customs authorities when attempting to tackle the problem of fake goods sent by small parcels. Traditionally available information such as ship manifests and the supporting role of customs brokers are often absent in small volume trade. Instead, data from postal services and express companies could constitute a valuable enforcement resource if they were made available to customs authorities.

The analysis in the report uses two sorts of data: information on trade in counterfeit goods, which is based on customs data on seizures of counterfeit goods obtained from the World Customs organization, European Commission's Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union and from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP). These data are complemented with available statistics that illustrate international trade in small parcels from the Universal Postal Union and from Eurostat.