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 user 2007-10-09 at 11:05:00 am Views: 36
  • #19283

    Fraudsters Invade Cartridge Market
    Nigeria oct 07 Consumers and makers of printer cartridges are losing millions of shillings to a vibrant counterfeiting industry that refills and repackages them for resale in the local market as new products.Top among the victims of this illicit trade are American technology firm Hewlett Parkard (HP) and Epfon whose cartridges are popular in the Kenyan market. The Government and its agencies are notable among the consumers bled dry in the syndicate as bulk buyers.The scam revolves around businessmen working in collaboration with secretaries, messengers and other junior staff to get the empty cartridges and boxes which they later use to repackage the recycled products for sale.

    Other than recylcing, this syndicate uses its network of junior employees to steal original cartridges from offices for resale at lower prices.To sell these poor quality gadgets, the purveyors collude with purchasing and accounting officers to supply them at a fee for their certification as genuine products worth buying at market price.Also caught up in this web are small consumers who end up buying the fake products that do poor work in a shorter period.

    HP’s regional manager Kennedy Mbwaya, however, reckons that the company is not against the refill business but is opposed to those passing the refills as new products on its brand name. He said the company knew of firms that refill the cartridge for sale under a different brand name.”We are strongly opposed to the group that uses our boxes to pass the refills as new products,” Mr Mbwaya said.In Nairobi, the refilled catridge business has a complex network. The small dealers converge at the city’s Globe Roundabout with the used catridges and boxes to supply their bigger counterparts. These items fetch between Sh50 and Sh300 depending on the quality of the boxes and cartridges .The business is getting more complex by the day as the group now orders the printing of HP or Epfon boxes for repackaging, especially when they land a big supply order with the government.

    One dealer told the Business Daily that depending on the organisation one is supplying, it was possible for the refillers to get returns at the rate of 10 times the cost of refill. If one, for example, uses Sh1, 000 to refill and package a given cartridge, such items can be resold at the price of Sh11, 000.”There is money especially if you land a contract with the government. Some government departments do not care so long as you give them their cut,” said the source.”Mid months are our good days, we get lots of supply from people working in these offices since they are broke and it’s that time that we buy them cheaply.”The consumer’s troubles are deepened by the fact that some of the fakes are imported, making it impossible to spot the difference.

    Stanley Munyasya of Okiprint Stationaries in Nairobi down town, says the company is losing business to dealers in refills. While he stocks genuine cartridges, Mr Munyasya says most neighbouring businesses deal in fakes mainly originating from China.He says while an original HP laser Jet 92A will retail at Sh4,200 the counterfeits go for Sh1,500.”You can’t tell the difference if you have not been in this business for long.”He claims even custom officials find it difficult to distinguish between the fakes and the originals.Mr Fred Obuya who deals in original catridges says the problem with the refills is that they don’t work at all or they give poor quality print out.”While an original cartridge can give you up to 2,400 print copies, the refills will give you half at poor quality ,” said Obuya.Our sources said the ill business was thriving along Tsavo Avenue, Kirinyaga and River road areas in Nairobi.Prospective buyers who question the lower prices are challenged that the products come from Dubai.Sadly, the syndicate is now sending authorised dealers out of town, said Mbwaya.

    Proposed law
    The absence of tough laws and an agency to tackle counterfeiting has left offenders free to thrive in this illegal trade that is estimated to be worth billions of shillings annually.This situation is, however, bound to change should Parliament enact a proposed Anti-Counterfeit Bill that spells out stiff penalties especially for repeat offenders.According to the proposed Bill, any person found guilty of possessing or in control of the process of trading any counterfeit goods, faces a maximum of five years in jail or a fine three times the retail price of the goods to which the offence relates.If found guilty the second time then the Bill proposes that the offender face a fifteen-year imprisonment or fine not less than five times the value of the prevailing retail price.It also proposes the formation of an agency that will handle issues related to counterfeiting.

    Counterfeit goods have also found their way into the country mainly from China through Dubai. Locally, the music industry is so far the worst hit by piracy.The Bill stipulates that any person found manufacturing, producing, packaging, re-packaging, labeling or making in Kenya or elsewhere any goods protected or imitated in such a manner that they are identical or substantially similar then the person or persons are liable for the offence.It also states that a person is liable to counterfeit offence if found guilty of imitating through a calculated move to confuse consumers to buy the products assuming they were the original products and which are protected.Other than those manufacturing, the Bill also says those found either selling, hiring or offering on display any counterfeit goods or distributing counterfeits goods for the purpose of trade, can be charged in a court of law.However, taking into account the number of days investigations take in the country and the requirement by the Bill that during the case hearing, the need to get the identity of the persons involved in the importation , exportation, their addresses or whereabouts, may end up being a tall order.Through the Copyright Society of Kenya, a number of organisations have started taking the issue of copy right infringement seriously.Apart from the musicians, other companies like Microsoft have also taken the cue by seeking legal redress about some computers sales they alleged infringed on their copy rights.