The holiday shopping season is not just big business for virtually every retailer, it is also the season to be jolly for a lot of crooks. And with 90% of holiday shoppers planning to hit the online stores this year, consumers need to be conscious of the possibility that a bargain price that sounds too good to be true may, in fact, be false.
It’s not hard to for a counterfeit or fake item to hide in plain sight on the giant e-commerce sites. Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) offers more than 350 million products to its customers. Of that total, some 12.23 million are sold directly by Amazon while the rest are sold by the company’s Marketplace sellers. eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) has 1 billion items for sale from some 25 million resellers. Both suffer from a relatively small, but costly and potentially dangerous, counterfeiting problem.
According to a recent report from counterfeit awareness and consumer advocate site The Counterfeit Report, its research has uncovered 2.5 million counterfeit items for sale on eBay. The firm has also reported 1.8 million counterfeit items to eBay for removal from the auction and retail site’s listing.
The Counterfeit Report also has submitted infringement notices on 11,713 counterfeit items sold at Amazon. The firm notes that it “conducted dozens of name-brand test purchases from Amazon Fulfillment and Amazon Marketplace sellers, but never received an authentic item. Counterfeits were also purchased from Amazon Direct and Amazon Warehouse Deals.”
In October, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) reported that nearly 90% of its chargers and cables labeled as genuine at Amazon.com are, in fact, counterfeit. Apple has sued a New Jersey company, Mobile Star, for putting Apple’s logo on the cables and chargers.
Inexplicably, the e-commerce giants don’t notify consumers that they have received a counterfeit, that they may be in danger, and that they are entitled to a refund — even when the websites know or have been notified by the manufacturer that 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 annually and has cost U.S. workers more than 750,000 jobs.
The Counterfeit Report offers the following advice to consumers:
- Avoid all online purchases of trademarked items from China, and China sellers on Amazon Fulfillment and Amazon Marketplace. Many manufacturers don’t authorize sales on these websites.
- Buy online directly from the manufacturer, or their authorized retailers with clear return policies.
- Always buy with a credit card, never cash, PayPal withdrawals or wire transfers.
- When in doubt about a product, seek advice and compare it with an authentic product at an authorized retailer.
- Always keep the disputed product; it is your only proof of receiving a counterfeit. If returned, sellers will simply deny it is counterfeit and sell it to another unsuspecting consumer.
- Notify the offending website and dispute the purchase. Request a refund from the seller or website.
- If a refund is denied, notify your credit card company that you have retained the counterfeit product and are disputing the charge.
eBay public relations sent the following comments
Mr. Crosby, who is neither law enforcement nor a rights owner, professes to operate a website to promote counterfeit awareness. But in reality, he is only looking out for his own business interests and his own bottom line. Instead of working collaboratively with eBay to combat counterfeits — as we invited him to do — Mr. Crosby chose to operate outside eBay’s policies and file demonstrably meritless claims and litigation against the company. Recently, Mr. Crosby filed suit against eBay seeking alleged damages, which resulted in an arbitrator ruling in eBay’s favor and awarding fees incurred defending against what the arbitrator ruled were ‘frivolous claims.’
Counterfeits are not welcome on eBay. We’re committed to combatting the sale of counterfeit goods and have consistently been an Internet industry leader in working to stop the online sale of counterfeit goods. We utilize a combination of sophisticated detection tools, enforcement and strong relationships with brand owners, retailers and law enforcement agencies to combat bad activity and present our customers with a safe, trusted shopping experience. In addition, for merchants in particular, eBay proactively partners with retailers and manufacturers to combat the sale of stolen or counterfeit goods.
eBay’s extensive anti-counterfeit measures include the Verified Rights Owner Program (VeRO). Launched in 1998, VeRO allows brand owners to quickly and easily report possible counterfeits or other infringing goods. eBay promptly investigates each VeRO notification and we take appropriate action on reported listings. More than 40,000 rights owners, ranging from Global 500 companies to industry trade associations to small businesses, participate in the VeRO program.
In the rare case a buyer believes that he or she has purchased a counterfeit item, eBay’s Money Back Guarantee applies to virtually all transactions and will cover them accordingly.