A Quarter of Online Shoppers Have Purchased Fake Goods

Consumers have a slightly better (26%) than one in four chance of purchasing a fake product from an online seller or marketplace. More than half of those unlucky buyers (52%) say they will lose faith in the brand due to the transaction.

The data were included in a recent report from Incopro/Sapio Research. The report also noted that 22% of shoppers who purchased a counterfeit product did so knowing that they were buying a fake. Worse, from the brand’s point of view, is that nearly a third of all shoppers considered buying fake clothing, jewelry, and leather goods as “acceptable.”

Among unwitting buyers of fake goods, nearly two-thirds (64%) say they lose trust in a marketplace after discovering they have purchased a fake and more than half (51%) say they lose trust in the search engine that led them to the product.

While most consumers still believe that an honest representation of their products by a brand is important, only a quarter think it’s important for an online influencer to present a true representation of the product. Among Gen Z consumers, that number drops to just 17%.

Most consumers (61%) say they would not buy fake products to impress their online friends, 8% admit to having bought fake designer brands “in order to look good” and 5% have knowingly lied to promote a brand or product.

Consumers generally want to be protected from buying fake goods or reading fake news or being part of a fake society the study notes. As a result, nearly half (45%) turn to trusted marketplaces and the same number say they rely on customer reviews. They find little relief.

But turning to well-known marketplaces like Amazon or eBay is also problematic. Barely a third (34%) of consumers reported always receiving a refund when they complain about being sold a fake product. Slightly more (39%) said the sometimes received a refund and 27% reported never receiving a refund.

In March, Amazon launched an anti-counterfeiting program it called Project Zero that was really nothing more than giving brands the power to police the Amazon marketplace on their own. When push comes to shove, though, Amazon wraps itself in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” In Amazon’s case, this means that it has no responsibility to verify that a third-party merchant is telling the truth about the brands available from the merchant’s store.

As always, consumers are mostly on their own when it comes to avoiding purchasing a fake product, and the old advice still holds: Caveat emptor.

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