Security tags to fight counterfeit goods trade

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The Independent Online

Luxury Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton handbags could soon be tracked by radio tags invented by the European Commission.

The commission claims that tags are needed to fight the £315bn-a-year trade in fake and stolen luxury goods.

The initiative follows warnings about the risks of buying counterfeit goods. Trading standards said last week that fakes were "back with a vengeance" and warned that the industry was linked to crime and drugs.

Supermarkets such as Tesco have already begun projects to test radio tagging products. The stores say they would remove the tags when people leave the till.

But the European Commission wants to go further. It has patented a radio tagging device to be embedded into luxury items such as Rolex watches, that can sell for £10,000 each.

The Commission says it intends to hand the technology to police forces and customs organisations as an anti-fraud device.

But privacy groups warn that tagging could be used to monitor consumers. "I would be uncomfortable myself," said Ian Brown, director of the think-tank Foundation for Information Policy Research. "It could start off in expensive items but filter down to other sorts of devices."

EU officials admit the proposal is controversial. A spokesman for Philippe Busquin, the EU Research Commissioner, insisted customers be warned of tagged purchases and said the technology must comply with EU privacy laws.