People in Northern Ireland are prepared to pay for counterfeit goods more than any other region in the UK, a new report has claimed.
Apart from London, the comparative average level of purchases of fake cigarettes, medicines, films, music, clothes, car parts and alcohol, which could contain cleaning fluids, is higher than anywhere else.
More than half who bought items at knock-down prices, admitted they could not afford the genuine article, and even though three-quarters were afraid to disclose bank details to rogue traders just over 40% were worried about getting caught, according to a nationwide survey.
Outside London - the most fake-infested part of the UK - Northern Ireland is the regional counterfeit capital, according to a report by PwC. By comparison Scotland reported significantly fewer fake purchases than the national average.
More than half of those surveyed in Northern Ireland said they sometimes purchased counterfeit clothing and accessories, films and music - the highest percentage across the UK, including London.
Mark James, from PwC’s anti-counterfeiting team, said that counterfeits had an obvious impact on profit and jobs, yet people increasingly considered access to fakes as a normal, consumer choice.
He said: “The digital economy and global supply chains have made tracking counterfeit goods and measuring their economic damage fiendishly complex.
“Companies invest significant amounts of time, money and effort in developing their products, while manufacturers and buyers of counterfeit goods strike right at the heart of that. Ultimately, companies are seeing their brand, reputation and revenues stolen.”
The European Commission claims counterfeiting and piracy could be costing the UK economy £30 billion and more than 14,500 jobs.
The vast majority of consumers surveyed for the report said they believed counterfeiting to be morally wrong, while 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds disagreed.
The number of respondents in Northern Ireland admitting to purchasing counterfeit alcohol was 24%, compared to the UK average of 18%.
Drinkaware, the alcohol charity, said that statistic was alarming given the health risks associated with illegal products which could contain chemicals such as cleaning fluids, screenwash or nail polish remover.
The report said 64% of respondents said they purchased counterfeit goods because they could not afford the genuine product.
Fears of handing over bank details to counterfeiters, cited by 76% of people in Northern Ireland, were of much greater concern than getting caught, which worried only 41% of counterfeit goods buyers, the study found.
Consumers said responsibility for stopping the sale of counterfeit goods was primarily a matter for the police, followed by government and then themselves - ahead of online markets and manufacturers.