Consumer Products

More Effort Needed to Crack Down on Counterfeit Products Sold at Amazon and eBay

In late September, a Manhattan jury awarded Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) $5.5 million to compensate the company for sales of counterfeit diamond engagement rings sold by Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST). A few days later, the jury socked Costco with another $8.25 million in punitive damages.

When Tiffany first brought the suit in February 2013 for infringement of its trademark, Costco countered that “Tiffany” had become generic. Costco’s claim was tossed out by the judge and the rest is now history.

The problem of counterfeit goods is an especially pointed one for online retail outlets like eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) and Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). Counterfeit awareness and consumer advocate site, The Counterfeit Report, has over the past six months sent notifications to both companies to remove listings for 1.7 million counterfeit items for sale on their websites.

Last month Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) reported that nearly 90% of its chargers and cables labeled as genuine at are, in fact, counterfeit. Apple has sued a New Jersey company, Mobile Star, for putting Apple’s logo on the cables and chargers.

Amazon told Bloomberg News at the time that it has “zero tolerance” for counterfeit at its website and that it goes after “wrongdoers” aggressively. What neither eBay nor Amazon does do, according to The Counterfeit Report, is tell customers they’ve bought a fake:

Inexplicably, the e-Commerce giants don’t notify consumers they received a counterfeit, they may be in danger, and are entitled to a refund — even when the websites know or have been notified by the manufacturer the items are counterfeit, or fake (items that don’t even exist in the manufacturer’s product line but bear its registered trademark).

Counterfeiting is a $1.7 trillion global criminal enterprise that is profitable, difficult to track and generally unpunished. The damage is not limited to trademark violation, however. According to The Counterfeit Report, counterfeiting costs U.S. manufacturers more than $250 billion and has cost U.S. workers more than 750,000 jobs.

Sponsored: Tips for Investing

A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit.