DUBAI: Counterfeiters are smuggling fake phone components in bulk before assembling them into genuine-looking smart phones in makeshift factories in UAE apartments, an intellectual property (IP) specialist said.
“Counterfeiters bring in components in huge containers to Dubai from China to avoid detection by the customs and then assemble them here in their rented flats. The assembled items are then sold to local and neighbouring markets,” said Hatem Gani, Director of IP Practice at The Legal Group, a Dubai-based law firm.
“These are home-based assembly lines — with all the tools they need to produce thousands of copies. You see fake phones sold off the streets today. Tomorrow, they may be sold alongside the genuine ones in shops,” he said.
Haven for fake phones
The Dragon Mart off the Dubai-Oman Road is a known haven for fake phones. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has banned any electronic device with an invalid International Mobile Equipment Identity number as part of a crackdown on fake phones. That, however, has not stopped counterfeiters from producing copies of the popular gadgets from Samsung and Apple, offering them on the streets, Metro stations or hotels.
Residents have seen scammers roaming the streets of Sharjah too.
Most fake phone touts offer basement bargains: Dh200-Dh500 for a fake Samsung S3 or an Apple iPhone. But sweet talk soon turns into sour grapes when buyers discover that the duplicates are no better than a doorstop.
At around 9pm on December 7, a street vendor offered a knock-off Samsung S3 to Omar Nasser, a 47-year-old Kenyan, in Baniyas Square. Satisfied by the peddler’s quick demo, he forked out Dh300 for the kit, which also came in a neat box. “He showed me a ‘Made in Korea’ marking at the back of the phone,” said the hotelier who has been in Dubai for 12 years. “I thought it would be a decent phone and a Wi-Fi gear. But when I tried to install music and videos, it was pretty useless. I felt scammed.”
But for counterfeiters, metal engraving or hallmarking is the easiest thing to do, said Gani.
For two nights this week, knockoff smartphone vendors roaming in Deira and Bur Dubai approached an XPRESS team out on a sting operation. “This is an exact copy of Samsung S3,” the Asian man said in broken English.
He asked for Dh700 for the fake Galaxy S3, which comes with 4GB internal memory, 1GB RAM, dual-core processor and a 5.5-inch screen. The screen shows it has Android v4.1 or Jelly Bean support. Asked if there’s a warranty, the peddler segued into a sob story about not being able to pay his rent. “That dialogue is right out of a movie script,” said Nasser. “People should not waste their money buying these fake phones.”
Following complaints, an official from the Markets Inspection Department of Dubai Municipality has issued a warning for people to avoid knockoff phone peddlers. He said inspectors are sweeping Dubai’s streets off these scammers.
“I’ve been offered fake phones on Shaikh Zayed Road near the Trade Centre Metro Station,” said Francois, a French tourist.
Victims said scammers often show original devices before switching them with replicas. “Some copies look so good. But when it breaks, your money is gone as there’s no warranty,” said Kiran, a Dubai-based Indian executive.
“It’s a classic case of UAE Trademarks Law violation, which calls for jail and fines for violators,” said Omar Shteiwi, Chairman, Brand Protection Group.
800 4 888: Al Ameen service (Dubai Police)
600 54 5555: Dubai Consumer Protection Section