Perception study: Half of young consumers find it acceptable to buy fakes

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A new study by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) indicates that while Europeans are growing wary of counterfeits and illegal content, price remains a deciding factor as young consumers are more likely to find it acceptable to buy fakes.

The study find that Europeans are becoming increasingly conscious of the risks associated with buying counterfeit goods and accessing content from illegal sources. According to the study, 80 % of Europeans believe that criminal organizations are behind counterfeit products and acknowledge that such purchases harm businesses and employment. Moreover, 83 % think that buying counterfeits supports unethical behavior, and two-thirds recognise the potential threats to health, safety, and the environment. When it comes to digital piracy, 82 % agree that accessing content illegally poses risks such as scams and exposure to inappropriate content for minors.

Despite these findings, the study reveals a disconnect between awareness and behaviour. One in three Europeans (31 %) finds it acceptable to buy counterfeit products if the price of the genuine product is too high. Among younger consumers aged 15-24, this figure jumps to 50 %.

In the past year, 13 % of Europeans admit to having intentionally purchased counterfeits. This figure is substantially higher among those aged 15-24, at 26 %, but falls to 6 % for those aged 55-64 and below 5 % for individuals over 65.
The study also highlights variations among countries, with Bulgaria leading in the intentional purchase of counterfeits at 24 %, followed by Spain (20 %), Ireland (19 %), Luxembourg (19 %), and Romania (18 %).

One major deterrent to buying counterfeit products is price. A more affordable price for original products is cited by 43 % as the top reason for refraining from buying fakes. The risk of poor quality (27 %), safety concerns (25 %), and legal repercussions (21 %) also play a role.

The study reveals uncertainty among consumers regarding the authenticity of products. Nearly 40 % have doubted the authenticity of a product they bought, with disparities among EU Member States. In Romania, 72 % of consumers have had such doubts, compared to 26 % in Denmark and the Netherlands.

Additionally, 41 % of Europeans are uncertain about the legality of the sources they use for online content. Despite this, 80 % prefer to use legal sources if they are affordable. Notably, 65 % consider it acceptable to engage in piracy if content is not available through their subscriptions.

Speaking about the study, EUIPO’s Executive Director, Christian Archambeau, emphasised the importance of understanding perceptions to engage in meaningful dialogues and awareness campaigns. He added: “The latest edition of the IP Perception study provides new relevant insights into the perception of infringement of intellectual property rights and underlines once more the need to support consumers protection. It also confirms positive developments regarding the awareness and availability of digital content from legal sources.”

This study, titled ‘European Citizens and Intellectual Property: Perception, Awareness and Behaviour’, conducted 25 824 online interviews across EU Member States, and builds upon previous studies from 2017 and 2020.