Fake clothing getting tougher for RCMP to spot

The RCMP says sales of counterfeit clothing is a growing concern and tougher to spot in Canada.

Sports jerseys made in China a popular buy online

Bob Reaume of Bob Reaume Sports inspects an NFL jersey known to be a fake. (CBC News)

The RCMP says sales of counterfeit clothing is a growing concern in Canada.

A Windsor, Ont., woman is the latest example. She faces charges after allegedly selling counterfeit brand name boots over Facebook.

The dissatisfied buyer of the fake UGG boots complained to the RCMP and Windsor and Calgary RCMP detachments began an investigation.

"Somebody bought those believing they were the real thing. They paid a good price for them," RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Annette Bernardon.

Bernardon didn’t say how much the buyer paid but said UGG boots usually retail for $200 a pair.

Bernardon was previously part of the RCMP’s federal enforcement section of the RCMP and investigated intellectual property crimes under copyright and trademark law. She said the sale of counterfeit goods is a growing problem in Canada.

"We are trained in the basics but over the last couple years, it’s become more and more difficult. The counterfeiters are getting better at their skills," Bernardon said. "It’s very difficult to determine what is fake and what is real."

According to Bernardon, approximately 80 per cent of counterfeit goods sold in Canada come from China.

Spotting the fakes

There are telltale signs of fake clothing and purses, including subpar packaging and crooked stitching on clothing. But one miscue often sets the fakes apart.

"Because they come from China, there is often a lot of spelling mistakes in the English translation [on tags]," Bernardon said.

Fakes are sold online, at corner stores, house parties and flea markets, Bernardon said.

Some products, such as athletic jerseys, are only authorized to be sold by certain people and stores licensed to do so.

Bob Reaume of Bob Reaume Sports in Windsor, Ont., is an authorized dealer.

"It’s not going to go away any time soon," Reaume said of the market.

Reaume’s not concerned, though.

"We’ve seen a lot of the ones guys buy for $40 or $50 and they’re not good jerseys," he said. "If you want real, fine. If you want fake, go buy fake."

Reaume said people often come into his store and ask for their counterfeit jerseys to be re-lettered or re-stitched.

Reaume said lettering, stitching, stripes and even sizes aren’t accurate on many of the fakes.

He said he’s found size 48 football jerseys fitting like a medium shirt.

"A 48 is supposed to be an extra large," Reaume said.

Bernardo said counterfeits violate copyright law and trademark law. She said both are federal laws and fall under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Those found guilty of distribution, importation and manufacturing of fakes could face a maximum of $1 million in fines and five years in prison, she said.

The buyer of fakes, however, cannot be charged — unless they buy the clothing online and have it shipped to Canada. That would make the buyer an importer.

Bernardo said there is an ethical dilemma, too.

"The public is not aware that ... what they are inadvertently doing could be supporting organized crime groups or some other criminal offence," she said.