Weathering Through the Storm of Counterfeit Accusations and Protecting Your Reputation

According to a study in 2019 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the estimated value of international trade in counterfeit and pirated goods reached a staggering $ 464 billion, accounting for roughly 2.5% of global trade. It also estimated that the value of counterfeit trade in Africa amounted to $ 50.6 billion, with Nigeria being a major hub.

Counterfeiting is a significant concern in Nigeria, impacting both domestic and international businesses. When accusations of selling counterfeit products or services arise, it can severely damage a company's reputation, leading to lost sales, consumer distrust, and even legal repercussions. Many firms grapple with the challenge of counterfeit goods and services, posing a threat to both consumers and legitimate businesses.

Nigeria is a major hub of counterfeit products ranging from fake designer clothing (think the infamous "Aba Made" industry) to pharmaceuticals and even educational certificates; the reach is vast. Such activities not only harm consumers but also undermine the integrity of businesses operating in the country.

Several clampdowns have been done by different regulatory agencies of government in different sectors. For example, the crackdown on counterfeit drugs, targets both manufacturers and distributors. Some pharmaceutical companies were implicated in the scandal, facing allegations of selling fake or substandard medications to unsuspecting consumers.

The fallout was swift and severe, with public outcry, regulatory interventions, and widespread condemnation. Yet about 15% of medicines in Nigeria are fake as of 2022 according to the Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC. Genuine products and services are not left out as the integrity of some has been smeared by the acts of a few violators.

Accusations of counterfeiting, whether true or false, can have a devastating impact on a company's reputation. It can lead to loss of consumer trust and erosion of brand and product image. News travels fast, especially in the digital age. Negative media coverage can paint a damaging picture of such a company, deterring potential customers.

Counterfeiting can also be a criminal offense, with potential consequences like fines and product seizures. Legitimate brand owners may pursue civil lawsuits for trademark infringement. The long-term consequences may include decreased market share, difficulty in attracting investors, and strained relationships with stakeholders.

In the wake of accusations of selling counterfeit products or services, companies must act swiftly and decisively to mitigate damage to their reputation. In response, they must launch an extensive investigation, working closely with regulatory authorities and conducting internal audits. Subsequently, issue a public statement acknowledging the issue, recall the affected products, and implement stricter quality control measures. Transparency and accountability can help to salvage reputation and regain consumer trust.

Proactive Communication by prompt issuing of press releases addressing the allegations, assuring customers of commitment to quality and authenticity. This should also include the launching of a campaign to educate consumers about identifying genuine and reporting suspicious products. Through proactive communication and engagement, the crisis can be contained, and reputation preserved.

Collaboration with Stakeholders like law enforcement agencies, industry associations, and consumer advocacy groups closely to investigate the allegations and apprehend counterfeiters. This should be done by initiating a series of joint awareness campaigns with government agencies and non-profit organisations to educate consumers about the risks of counterfeit products. This collaboration with stakeholders will help to combat counterfeit activities effectively and rebuild trust within the community.

While crisis communication and management are crucial, true reputational management should be an ongoing process. In building brand trust, having a comprehensive brand protection strategy is a must.

Ethical sourcing ensures product authenticity, while intellectual property protection safeguards your brand identity.  Transparency in the supply chain builds trust, and educating consumers empowers them to identify genuine products.  In addition, corporate social responsibility initiatives cultivate a positive brand image, all working together to create a strong and respected brand.

Accusations of counterfeiting can be a major setback for any business. However, through swift, transparent, and well-crafted reputational management strategies, companies can navigate the crisis and rebuild trust with stakeholders. With ethical practices and building a strong brand foundation, businesses can protect themselves from future accusations and create a sustainable path to success.


Research & Advocacy Department,

Chartered Institute of Directors (CIoD), Nigeria

28, Cameron Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.



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