When Quebec enacted its ban on handheld devices while driving, counterfeit hands-free devices popped up in the market, a Toronto lawyer specializing in counterfeit cases said yesterday.

With the handheld devices ban effective in Ontario this week, Lorne Lipkus expects to see more of these counterfeit devices hitting the market.

The Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network held its Reality Tour 2.0 in Ottawa yesterday to teach law enforcement officers and border services officers about best practices in investigating and prosecuting cases related to counterfeiting.

Products are found in Ottawa intermittently, said Toronto lawyer Brian Isaac, who is one of the event’s organizers, “but it’s a big problem everywhere across Canada.”

While historically, counterfeit goods were only found in flea markets, the problem has changed in the last decade or so with a lot of the product being imported, Isaac said. “And because of the globalization of trade and supply lines, product has found its way into many different stores, legitimate stores in legitimate malls. It’s a problem that’s reared its ugly head everywhere in Canada.”

While recent studies have shown that there is a problem with counterfeit cigarettes in Ottawa-area high schools, counterfeit touches everything — from auto parts to zippers and “some things you wouldn’t expect, like circuit breaker boxes,” Isaac said. Electrical items, lamps, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, toothpaste, clothing, watches and even brake pads and airplane parts are also counterfeited.

While the economic impact is huge — “it’s a multibillion-dollar annual drain on the economy in Canada,” said Isaac — counterfeiting creates safety issues as well. “They’ll spend a lot of time to make it look really good and no time trying to make it work really good,” Isaac said.

Ottawa residents can do their part by being more conscious about their consumer choices.

“It’s common sense,” said Isaac. “If it’s cheaper than another product … if the price is too good to be true, it’s probably a knockoff,” he said.

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