Counterfeit goods seizures skyrocket in pandemic

Online shopping has boomed during the pandemic. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

The boom in online trade and tighter border controls during the health crisis have led to a major increase in the number of counterfeit goods seized by federal customs.

This content was published on March 4, 2021 - 12:10

On Thursday, the Federal Customs Administration reported that it had confiscated about 50% more fake products in 2020 than in the previous year. In 2020, 4,433 counterfeit products were seized, compared to 2,906 in 2019. The most common counterfeit products were watches, jewellery, glasses, and handbags.

According to customs authorities, one key reason for this increase is the rise in online shopping due to the closure of shops and a ban on cross-border shopping. The value of customs declarations reached CHF50 million ($54 million) in 2020, compared to CHF40 million in 2019.

Switzerland’s borders were closed and strictly controlled from March 13 last year to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The number of people crossing borders decreased by up to 80% throughout Switzerland. The country re-opened its borders in June, but certain travel restrictions remain in place.

The customs administration also points out that stronger checks at the border also contributed to the rise in seizures. This likely contributed to an increase in the amount of heroin and cocaine confiscated in 2020. Twice as much heroin was seized in 2020 than in the previous year.

The decline in travel in 2020 led to a drop in forged documents, such as passports. In 2020, there were 142 forged passports confiscated, half as many as in 2019. The share of seized medicines and doping substances also declined.

A historic drop in foreign trade in 2020 affected revenue collected from value-added tax. As a result, the Federal Customs Administration saw revenue drop from CHF23 billion to CHF21.8 billion in 2020.

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