Identifying Counterfeits – The Dark Side of Online Shopping

With the the seemingly never ending proliferation of counterfeit goods, what also is seemingly endless is the double life many of these counterfeiters live. Take the case of counterfeit investigator Flaming Lee. Her career was tasked in investigating counterfeit goods for Swiss-based power technology Giant Asea Brown Boveri Ltd. (ABB). At the same time Ms. Lee sold counterfeit Circuit Breakers on the black market.

The murky underworld of China's anti counterfeiting industry is for the most part a huge contradiction. Much like the story of Ms. Flaming Lee, the industry is rampant with fraud, according to an AP (Associated Press) investigation. Some of the cases identified by the AP included mission critical products that were a danger to those who bought them. This included counterfeit auto parts, plane parts, baby toys and other products people relied on in their everyday lives.

The fraud that is interlocked with the counterfeiting investigative process is not something too many within the industry will discuss. The AP investigative report included a variety of forms of unlawful activity. The ingredients for this report came from using previously undisclosed records from the Chinese authorities as well as internal company investigations and testimonies from those involved in a direct capacity with those wrongdoings.

Brands Need to Do More

The reason I started this article with the above story is to give you a clearer picture of the dangers of counterfeiting in the real world as well as online. Consumers need to protect themselves and sadly, many are in the dark.

Even with the aggressive anti-counterfeiting practices of online selling behemoths such as Alibaba and eBay, some consider them to be hotbeds of counterfeit goods and would opt for buying something from someone on a more personal network such as Craigslist.

Brands are also getting into the anti-counterfeiting act, with many providing guidelines on how to spot a genuine Luis Vuitton handbag or a Giorgio Armani wallet. This helps consumers, but unfortunately most consumers are unaware of these resources.

Brands need to do more to counter this threat to their brand. Counterfeits have a huge impact on the trust that people hold in a brand. One bad experience, even if unknown to the brand, can translate to a lessening of loyalty across the board and can contribute to churn, as more fans of a brand leave, than come on board.

In the end, when it comes down to it, consumers are really just seeking a place they can trust to buy products, especially when it is about purchasing designer and luxury products. When consumers get scammed on big ticket items, it does a lot of damage all around.

Verifying for Authenticity

So, as many brands are already doing, more brands need to adopt policies and measures that empower consumers to verify a brand's authenticity. So, in the case of sell and consign shops, consumers not only need to verify that their purchases are 100% mint, they also need to verify that they are authentic.

I feel that all sellers need to be held accountable and provide some type of certificate or money back guarantee to help consumers feel confident that what they are purchasing is the real thing. Brands that do this will provide their consumers peace of mind as well as help them avoid unnecessary stress, especially during the holiday season. Brands need to be transparent and provide as much education as possible, not only when it comes to the features of the product, but those features that define the product as authentic.