Among the commodities commonly so dealt with are television sets and other electronics, cosmetics, detergents, chemicals and medicinal drugs – indeed, the list in endless and leaves few items untouched.
Counterfeit electronics bearing world-renowned trademarks were once impounded in Dar es Salaam and destroyed at a dumpsite near the city.
An FCC consumer affairs and administration director said the destroyed consignment was imported by a businessperson he said had confessed to have imported the fake items from the Far East.
He explained that FCC officials stationed at the Dar es Salaam Port suspected a container, rushed into inspecting it and discovered that the containers were stuffed with fake TV sets and speakers.
Under the law of the land, FCC officials are mandated to inspect suspicious goods in shops, godowns and elsewhere. Items confirmed as fake are destroyed, with culprits footing the destruction costs in addition to risking a fine or imprisonment.
Probing questions many people have been asking themselves with respect to the place and role of the likes of FCC and other agencies include whether there is nothing they can do to stem the flood of fake or substandard locally made and imported goods apart from merely confiscating, destroying and bringing up for prosecution.
The agencies have kept appealing to consumers and the larger public to exercise care and refrain from buying goods that do not meet laid-down standards.
A typical FCC appeal would run along these lines: “When you go to a shop, make sure that what you plan to buy has a guarantee or warranty and has not expired. It is you right to ask all important questions related to these and other particulars.”
This may surely help, but how many would-be consumers are proactive, vigilant and tolerant enough to want to ensure value for their money each time they are out to foodstuffs, medicines, what not, important as doing so is?
An FCC official once declared that the situation was pathetic in that roundabout 40 per cent of all electronic goods in the Tanzanian market were fake – the corresponding figure for goods in the market generally being 25 per cent.
The official admitted that this was detrimental to the economy and touch off disasters, including endangering public safety, especially where counterfeit or adulterated chemicals found their way into homes or factories – and hence the need for enhanced care.
FCC and other agencies have an obvious, though some people may say time-worn, warning: that producing, distributing and selling substandard or otherwise fake goods are both criminal and detrimental to the economy and the public should be on the lookout.
But may be more importantly, it is argued that counterfeiting can scare off prospective investors while those already in business may be forced to close shop and relocate, thus denying the country badly needed revenue and employment opportunities.
At the local consumer level, people who bought counterfeits end up spending more money on the same products – and just won’t be impressed.
A soothing message, though: FCC is determined to move more vigorously on its nationwide education and sensitisation campaign on the issue.
Will the old “magic” work? Well, time will tell, but only if the campaign is sustained and if the public cooperates fully.