New York Councilwoman Margaret Chin wants to make it a crime to buy counterfeit bags in New York City. The Manhattan Democrat’s bill would penalize individuals caught buying designer fakes with a maximum $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison. That’s the same penalty as someone caught selling a single counterfeit good. According to the NY Post, Chin and lower-Manhattan residents are petitioning for a hearing on the bill, claiming that Canal Street merchants are spilling into side streets to harass anyone passing by. Of the bill Chin said: “It’s always illegal for people to sell [counterfeit goods], but it’s not illegal for the people who buy this stuff. Hopefully, this law will cut down on the demand.”
Last month, federal agents busted a major counterfeit warehouse in Maspeth, Queens, where they discovered 1,400 cartons of counterfeit bags, sunglasses and watches, which were being sold to street vendors. Moreover, agents with US Customs and Border Patrol seized $511 million in fake handbags last year alone. Of that, $340 million worth of forgeries were gathered by New York agents in 458 seizures. Someone caught selling or distributing fake goods can be charged with trademark counterfeiting, a misdemeanor in New York — which carries up to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. If a seller is caught with $1,000 worth of goods, it’s a felony punishable by up to 4 years in jail. Hawking more than $100,000 of fake purses could land someone up to 15 years in jail.
Considering that the majority of individuals buying these “Chanel” bags on Canal Street know that what they are buying is fake and as a result, the whole transaction is done in a fairly shady manner, I’m not sure if the bill will actually make a significant impact on the number of buyers. What do you think?