Eurobsit: How closely do Deutsche Post DHL Group and German customs cooperate to tackle counterfeiting?
Reinhard Fischer: We work closely with German customs. They are, after all, the enforcement authority for illicit activity. We regularly run programs where they analyse goods that are being sent through the postal system. However, under Article 10 of the German constitution, we are not allowed to open parcels ourselves, and our actions are very limited, so we rely customs to steer any investigation and we put aside packages for them to check.
E.: What kind of fake products are being smuggled through the postal system?
R.F.: The usual suspects, including counterfeit medicine, food supplements, cigarettes, shoes, textiles and luxury goods. There are also many non-certified goods entering Germany, which don’t meet European Union standards.
E.: What impact does the anti-counterfeiting operations have on your postal service?
R.F.: Let’s say customs have intelligence about a particular problem area. They may say: ‘Let’s focus on say counterfeit shoes, or similar, for a short period.’ If it is a big operation that lasts several days, it can have a big impact on the postal delivery service. For example, if there are a lot of parcels or small packets to be analysed, our whole supply chain can be blocked. Even just one or two days can have a huge impact on our efficiency levels due to the huge number of shipments that pass through our depots.
Having said that, we do have a clear and fundamental understanding of our responsibility in this area. We have a corporate policy that Deutsche Post DHL will not knowingly carry goods that infringe intellectual property rights, and it is also part of our policy to identify such goods if possible.
E.: What are some of the challenges you face in tackling the spread of fake goods through the postal system?
R.F.: If illicit products are shipped through a port or by air, it tends to arrive in large quantities, and it is a major win for customs if they can seriously curtail illegal activities. For us, smaller consignments are involved, so it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. We don’t have 10,000 fake shoes being sent by post, for example, so our job is much more difficult.
We are also working hard to try to speed up the process. It can take a long time for an operation to begin as any illicit activity has to be fully investigated. You often have to involve the legal representatives of the rights holder, and there are other legal procedures that have to be followed, and sometimes this can be for just one parcel. We have to store the parcels safely, which takes up warehouse space, so speed is important. In other words, we see a lot of room for improvement to accelerate the process.
E.: What kind of technology do you use to track counterfeit goods?
R.F.: Again, intelligence from the customs department is key in identifying shipments that may contain fake goods. In 2021, we will introduce a new electronic system, not specifically to tackle counterfeiting but to improve customs security and provide more accurate and advance information about shipments before they arrive. I think this will also give customs a better chance to analyse potentially illegal shipments. This will benefit us too because if you have better data, you can automate more processes for risk analysis purposes. The accuracy of customs declarations — detailing the content of any shipment — will also be improved.
“If illicit products are shipped through a port or by air, it tends to arrive in large quantities, and it is a major win for customs if they can seriously curtail illegal activities. For us, smaller consignments are involved, so it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
E: The rail hub at Duisburg is a key arrival point for goods from China, which many studies suggest is a major producer of counterfeit goods. What cooperation is there between Deutsche Post DHL Group and the rail port?
R.F.: We receive our international postal shipments through Offices of Exchange, which are international hubs in the postal network dealing with customs clearance. We know that there is a parcel stream from China to Duisburg, but only a small number of shipments will be handled by us. They will be transported to the office of exchange and then we will process them. But the majority of the goods arriving through Duisburg go through a similar customs clearance process as at ports and airports, and do not travel through the postal system in Germany.
E: How could your work in tackling counterfeit goods be further strengthened?
R.F.: We are keen to handle these investigations in the fastest way possible, so anything that will speed up the process is welcome. However this may well have legal implications so could take some time. We are also working in close cooperation with the European institutions as counterfeiting is an issue affecting all EU countries. Meanwhile, any technology that can support and speed up this process of seizing goods while keeping the business running efficiently would be of interest.