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Tech media groups complicit in smuggling of goods

The popularisation of fake and smuggled goods being offered in Vietnam has become a sizable concern, with delivery firms and even social media giants like Facebook being accused of aiding the act.

Just over a month ago, the Vietnam Directorate for Market Surveillance under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) and the A05 Force of the Ministry of Public Security discovered a 10,000-square-metre smuggled goods warehouse, operated through the holder of one Facebook account in the northern province of Lao Cai.

According to the authorities, the owner of the account regularly performed live streaming to directly offer items for sale. The items included watches, sunglasses, and consumer products of imitating brands such as Gucci, Adidas, and Nike, originating from Guangzhou in China.

The warehouse was operated under the close management of several staff members responsible for the live streaming, and 40 other employees involved in settling the orders, packaging, and shipping.

Along with Facebook, other platforms are also allegedly making it easy for others to trade low-quality goods. By simply searching for a certain brand name on Google or online shopping sites, customers will be dazzled by the thousands of products labelled like authentic products but only costing half the price or even less.

For instance, a pair of forged Adidas shoes have been seen for sale on for between VND90,000 ($4) and VND900,000 ($40), although on the official Adidas website the same items cost VND1-2.5 million ($45-110). Likewise, a bag with a Chanel logo can be picked up for VND366,000 ($15), but the genuine article goes for VND100 million ($4,300).

On Shopee, a Phillips egg whisk is on sale at VND120,000 ($5), but Phillips asserts that its authentic products are offered for at least VND790,000 ($34).

Last year, local book manufacturer First News Co., Ltd. announced that Shopee, and Sendo were abetting the consumption of fake and pirated books. To prove the wrongdoing, the company ordered its own products over 100 times on the e-commerce platforms, and was able to demonstrate that they were indeed fakes.

Meanwhile, a Shopee representative also told VIR that it has been keeping a close eye on the performance of vendors selling such items and “will block the accounts of vendors found in violation.”

During national social distancing a few months ago, thousands of unauthenticated healthcare items were offered for sale on e-commerce platforms. The Vietnam E-commerce and Digital Economy Agency under the MoIT reported that about 5,200 vendors with more than 21,000 pieces of fake and unofficial goods were discovered and handled on several e-commerce sites.

Several companies are complaining of not having enough staff to check the increasing amount of packages being sent as people became more accustomed to using delivery services earlier this year. Those especially providing domestic and international parcel courier services seem to be suffering the most, leaving huge gaps and therefore favourable conditions for forbidden, fake, and counterfeit goods to flood the market.

Nguyen Vu Quan, senior associate at Vision Associates Co., Ltd. said that there have been specific requirements and guides to help staff of international parcel courier services companies to filter packages which are banned from dissemination in Vietnam.

“However the fines on violated cases, which are between VND10 million ($435) and VND40 million ($1,740), have yet to be strict enough, because in reality the damage that violated packages (for example a package of drugs) cause on society can be much greater. In addition, the consequences will be more serious if there are connections between customers and checking staff to slip in these violated goods to the market,” Quan said.

Some companies also reaffirmed that they face difficulties in monitoring their staff in checking goods.

Nguyen Hong Long, deputy head of Postal Services Division at Vietnam Post Corporation told local media, “The soar in package volumes, making staff overloaded, is one reason for the oversight in checking packages. In addition, numerous people disguise violated packages and as a result it makes enquiries into some packages quite difficult.”

Quan from Vision Associates added, “Taking overloaded staff as the reason to miss out on illegal packages is not persuasive enough because parcel courier services companies and delivery services providers can cooperate to establish a checking system for all their facilities, and even all their staff. The cost for establishing and maintaining this system may be quite large, but necessary in order to ensure the safety for goods. Protecting consumers is the way that these companies protect their brands and prestige.”

Nguyen Danh Nghia, a representative of Hanoi Customs, also noted the difficulties his division has in checking thousands of packages each day. “It is necessary to cooperate with higher-level authorities. For example, we need to be notified by the police about packages that contain drugs, while we will also have to spend more on human resources development to check transactions,” Nghia said.

Resource: Vietnam Investment Review

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