Insiders and experts have said the sheet steel industry needs to improve quality and bring down prices to combat fakes, which have become pervasive.

Le The Bao, Chairman of the Vietnam Association for Anti-counterfeiting and Trademark Protection (VATAP), told Viet Nam News that counterfeits are a hot issue in the country, affecting every industry, especially makers of sheet steel.

"Developing production" will help improve product quality and cut down prices, enabling the industry to take on counterfeits, something that "has been stressed by the Government," he said.

Companies should make cheaper products targeted at rural consumers - a very big market - so that low-income people could buy genuine products, he said. Le Phuoc Vu, Chairman of steel giant Hoa Sen Group, said his company will make every effort to fight fakes. Along with improving quality and reducing prices, it will also widen its distribution system, doubling the number of branches around the country to 300 within three years, he promised.

His company's branches will lend equipment to customers to check products even when they do not buy from them. There will be programmes to educate and inform people, and a hotline has been set up at 1800 1515 for callers to inquire about real and fake steel sheets, he said.

Consumers must insist on a tax invoice if they want to join hands with manufacturers to fight counterfeits, he said.

The Vietnam Steel Association (VSA) and some traders called for using modern technology to imprint manufacturers' names and other information on steel sheets, making it harder to fake them.

“The technology is very expensive, which will help curb the fraud," a marketer who asked not to be named said.

On the sideline of a conference organised by the VSA, the VATAP and the Vietnam Economic Times late last month, the Market Surveillance Department reported that in the first 10 months of the year it detected and seized 10,000 tonnes of fake steel sheets.

The conference also heard that market watch officials routinely unearth fakes masquerading as well-known brands like Ton Hoa Sen, VnsteelThang Long and Phuong Nam, seizing tens of thousands of tonnes of fake sheets and other products whose quality do not match up to claims.

Nguyen Van Sua, VSA Deputy Chairman, said the counterfeits are produced in northern provinces and cities like ThanhHoa, Bac Ninh, Bac Giang, Hanoi and PhuTho.

The fake sheets are flooding the market, causing much heartburn to legitimate producers.

A Hoa Sen Group spokesperson told Viet Nam News that his company's market share kept rising steadily until last year, but has fallen this year from 40 percent to 37 percent.

He blamed it squarely on counterfeit products, adding they are likely to cost the company 118 billion VND (5.6 million USD) in revenues this year.-VNA