The EU’s anti-fraud agency has launched an inquiry into imports of fake coronavirus-related products, many of which are ineffective or even detrimental to health, it said in a press release.
The agency, OLAF, opened the case on Thursday “in relation to the imports of fake products used in the fight against the COVID-19 infection, such as masks, medical devices, disinfectants, sanitisers and test kits.”
Counterfeit masks have been offered for sale online in various member countries at prices ranging between €5 and €10, “approximately three times the normal price,” OLAF said in the statement.
It said the evidence suggests that these “counterfeit products enter Europe through online sales and are brought into our homes via postal or courier services.” They also arrive “in containers with fake certificates, or declared as other products, and then find their way into the normal distribution channels, or are sold on the black market.”
Until travel bans were imposed across Europe, these products were also brought across the border “in suitcases of air passengers, or smuggled through the land borders.”
On Thursday, the Commission announced that together with EU consumer authorities, it has stepped up its fight against the spread of fake products online.
“Some platforms, such as Amazon and Facebook, have voluntarily taken action … this is the way to go” said Didier Reynders, the European commissioner for justice and consumers.
Also Thursday, Interpol seized more than 34,000 items including counterfeit and substandard masks, “corona spray,” “coronavirus packages” or “coronavirus medicine.”