Europeans are increasingly aware of the risks and consequences of buying counterfeits and accessing content from illegal sources, according to study published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
The research on the perception of citizens towards intellectual property shows that a full 80% of Europeans agree that counterfeits support criminal organisations and ruin businesses and jobs.
Two out of three also consider fakes a threat to health, safety, and the environment, the study shows.
However, a third of Europeans find it acceptable to buy fakes when the price of the genuine product is too high. The proportion rises to half (50%) in the case of younger consumers aged 15-24, research by EUIPO has found.
The Alicante, Spain-based body manages the registration of the European Union trade mark (EUTM) and the Registered Community Design (RCD), both of which provide intellectual-property protection in all EU member states.
And 37% of Irish consumers report being unsure if a product was genuine or not, while 19% report having bought fakes intentionally.
The report shows that 20% of Irish admit to having accessed content illegally, especially to watch sports, while four in ten Europeans have paid to access content from a legal source in the past year, and up to 50% in Ireland.
A full 83% of respondents also believe that fakes support unethical behaviour.
In terms of piracy, 82% of Europeans agree that obtaining digital content through illegal sources entails a risk of harmful practices (scams or inappropriate content for minors).
Just 13% of Europeans report having bought counterfeits intentionally in the last 12 months. This figure goes up to 26% for those aged 15 to 24 – twice the EU average – while it drops to 6% in the 55-64 age group, and below 5% among those aged 65 and older.
On a country level, the proportion of consumers that have intentionally purchased fakes varies, from 24% in Bulgaria to 8% in Finland.
Apart from Bulgaria, buying fakes intentionally is above the EU average in Spain (20%), Ireland (19%), Luxembourg (19%), and Romania (18%).
A lower price of original products remains the most mentioned reason (43%) to stop buying fakes.
The risk of bad experiences (bad-quality products for 27% of people, safety risks for 25%, and punishment for 21%) is also a key driver to stop consumers from buying fakes.
Uncertainty regarding authenticity is also on the rise. Nearly four in ten Europeans (39%) have wondered whether they have bought a counterfeit, while half of young people (52%) stated the same.
Disparities among member states are also significant: while around a quarter of consumers in Denmark and the Netherlands (26%) have been unsure whether what they bought was genuine or not, this figure rises to 72% in Romania.
Europeans also show uncertainty about the legality of online sources, with 41% wondering whether a source accessed was legal or not.
EUIPO executive director Christian Archambeau said the study underlines the need to support consumer protection.
“It also confirms positive developments regarding the awareness and availability of digital content from legal sources,” he added.