EU customs intercepted nearly €740 million worth of fake goods last year with the increase blamed on the "large amount" of online sales from abroad, the Commission said on Thursday.
In total, customs officers seized 69,354 million consignments in 2018 — nearly 12,000 more than in the previous year.
The street value of the 27 million articles that were found to have infringed on intellectual property rights was estimated at nearly €740 million.
"The number of interceptions of fake goods being imported into the EU increased in 2018 due to the large amount of small parcels in express and postal traffic," the Commission said in a statement.
Pierre Moscovici, the Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs added that the job of customs officers "is made even more difficult by the rise in small packages entering the EU through online sales."
The top categories of products seized were cigarettes — accounting for 15% of the overall amount of detained articles — followed by toys (14%), packaging material (9%) and labels, tags, and stickers (also 9%).
Products for daily personal use such as body care, medicine ad electrical household goods accounted for another 37% of the total number of detained articles.
Cambodia was the main provenance for fake cigarettes. Counterfeit tobacco is usually sold in packaging trying to replicate known brands but may contain more hazardous, less regulated products, which can make them more dangerous to smoke.
According to the Commission, "600 to 1400 additives are added to cigarette tobacco" to give them their unique aroma and taste. These recipes make it especially hard to spot counterfeit.
But scientists at the Commission's Joint Research Centre announced in February that they have devised a new test which uses a near-infrared spectrometer. Within a few minutes, the spectrum of a suspicious tobacco product can then be compared with tobacco of known provenance to decide whether it is genuine or counterfeit.
China was found to be the main source entry for goods infringing property rights with Hong Kong also flagged as the top source for the "high number" of fake watches, mobile phones and accessories as well as labels, tags and stickers.
Closer to home, The Republic of North Macedonia was the main provenance for counterfeit alcoholic beverages; Turkey was the top source for other beverages, perfumes and cosmetics and Bosnia and Herzegovina for packaging material.