By Angela Giuffrida
Construction industry wakes up as fraudsters pour products in to the ‘open’ Gulf market.
More than half of the building products circulating among the Gulf’s construction sites could be counterfeit.
The sector is rife with second-rate products being made in cheap Asian labour markets, says Arif Al Rahma, general manager of Bentley Security and Safety Consultancy, a company that investigates counterfeit products and brands.
Former police officer Al Rahma, says that some audacious fraudsters are even deliberately misspelling the original manufacturer’s brand name to fool buyers. One case uncovered by Bentley found that lighting packaged under the Phillips banner was misspelled to give the impression that it was manufactured by the famous electrical company.
Lights, cables, bathroom accessories, fire alarms, air conditioning ducts and piping are just some of the fake products, emblazoned with the original manufacturer’s packaging and logo, infiltrating the market.
He says that the speed at which construction is growing and lax market conditions have made the Gulf an easy target for counterfeiters, with the distribution hub being Dubai.
Al Rahma estimates that, because of the sheer number of fake products being used in construction, some buildings might not survive more than 20 years before extensive refurbishment or renovation is required.
“Approximately 60% of building-related products are counterfeit,” he said. “Developers don’t have the time or staff to check whether their contractors are using genuine materials. Some contractors believe they’re paying for the real article, but in other cases, because of the escalating cost of materials, they intentionally buy the fake products.
Bentley has worked on cases for companies including Siemens, Panasonic and lighting supplier, Osram. The company carries out laboratory tests on replica goods using the original manufacturer’s product specifications. If the product is proved to be counterfeit, the company then works with the police and customs to seize the merchandise and close down the operations.
“The only way we can shut down a counterfeiter is by getting written authority from the original manufacturer,” said Nadia Alkhan Abdul, Bentley’s marketing and sales manager.
“Goods are then confiscated. The counterfeiter can end up spending time in prison and is forced to pay compensation.”Al Rahma called on the Dubai Government to form a support association and tighten its import regulations to help combat the problem.
“It is a very serious issue. Dubai is a developed country and is striving to be a major player on the world map; more should be done to protect the end-user.
“The government needs to put an association in place to support the people and companies that suffer from this. We track down fraudsters because we know from experience what to look for. But at other times, we are helpless to do anything about it.”
Other manufacturers at this week’s Big 5 show have supported the counterfeit claims. Helmut Begasse, export manager at KFV said: “Counterfeiting is a growing problem for us — we’re not only seeing cheap imitations on the market, but also good quality copies from China. They can offer products for a tenth of the price that we can, and there’s no way of stopping that.”