Souvenirs from Bella Italia? Pay responsibly, pay attention! “They have succeeded in accumulating a greater mass of objects, but the joy in the world has grown less”, warned Dostoevskij. Such a monition can be addressed to those purchasing merchandise in Italy from pedlars or unauthorized websites: yielding to this temptation, indeed, can lead to criminal penalties and to administrative fines.
Firstly, the offence of receiving stolen goods (offence called “ricettazione”) refers to cases in which a person purchases some merchandise though being aware of the fact that those goods were stolen or counterfeited. Therefore, if from the price of the goods related to its quality and characteristics, or from the sale's context and conditions, the buyer considers as factually possible that the wares may derive from a crime (for instance counterfeiting or theft), but purchases the goods anyway, they may face charges and be sentenced from 2 to 8 years imprisonment and to a fine from € 516 up to € 10.329. Otherwise, if the purchase of such “suspect” goods is only due to carelessness and inattention, a sentence to a 6 months arrest and to a fine not lower than € 10 may be faced (offence called “acquisto di cose di sospetta provenienza”). But that's not all. The same behavior is prosecuted with the infliction of administrative fines from €100 up to €7000. Therefore, if a very expensive and greatly desired designer bag is offered to you by pedlars on the beaches, in the streets or by some unauthorized websites, then it is most likely illegal and counterfeited, so you are strongly advised not to buy it.
There are, moreover, several reasons explaining these prohibitions. Buying counterfeited merchandise and, in general, goods by pedlars and by unauthorized sellers, degrades the economic development of the market significantly, especially of such enterprises who act complying with the rules; furthermore it can endorse a terrible system of illegal work and labor exploitation. In addition, the health of consumers could be endangered: in fact, counterfeited merchandise may contain harmful substances like unauthorized colouring matter, paints or varnishes.
However, despite the system of penalties and fines, it is not uncommon in Italy to find pedlars in squares, on the seafronts, on the beach, and, in general, in all places frequented mostly by tourists. Foreign turists are the most frequent victims of the illegal merchandising, as they might not be aware of all the relevant legislation in force in Italy and they are often attracted by the idea of buying some Italian souvenirs during summer holidays.
How could unpleasant consequences be avoided?
As far as the pedlars are concerned, there is absolutely no doubt: in these cases it is always preferable to refrain from buying merchandise. Regarding kiosks or some other trading structures, as well as online portals, offering designer goods it is worth evaluating the quality of the goods and the amount of the price, comparing them to the characteristics of products of the same brand or being similar and judging the plausibility of the price and therefore the authenticity of the goods. If, however, these elements are not known or uncertain, it is advisable to avoid the purchase.
Some Italian municipalities and seaside establishments have developed specific awareness campaigns in different languages, in order to discourage tourists from buying merchandise from pedlars. These campaigns highlight that the list of “pleasures to be avoided on the beaches” includes also massages and tattoos. In the latter case, furthermore, there could be the risk that the tattoo artist, even though an excellent draughtsman uses dangerous substances for the health.
Moreover, in order to protect “Made in Italy” products from counterfeited merchandise and from its online distribution, the last 14th of July was signed the “Carta Italia”, a Charter for the development of best practices in which institutions, consumer associations and companies commit themselves to combating together the online counterfeit.
For these reasons consumers, and in particular foreign turists, are encouraged to purchase responsibly, in order to avoid unpleasant consequences for everyone.
Press release of ECC Italy office in Bolzano of July 23, 2015.