Counterfeit is not something new. Many argue that it has been in existence since the introduction of authentic products. Counterfeit goods are fakes or unauthorised replicas of genuine products. Counterfeits tend to imitate something original to trick consumers who trust brands and logos when purchasing a product. Moreover, certain products might contain substances that could harm the buyer, as the product might contain toxic materials. Counterfeit products do not come with any after-sales or guarantees.
Counterfeit products are found everywhere; such items are sold online, on high streets or through mobile applications. Sometimes even local businesses might be tricked, as counterfeiters manage to precisely imitate the original product. Therefore, consumers need to pay attention to what is being purchased, especially from abroad or via the internet, where the products cannot be physically seen.
Some consumers intentionally buy counterfeit goods, while others genuinely think they purchased the original product. Keep in mind that this is one type of stealing from you as consumers, and the brand owner, who worked hard to establish the brand in the market. When you choose to buy counterfeit products, they would be contributing to organised crimes in exploiting labourers who have no rights and are paid very little.
Both counterfeit and piracy products infringe on intellectual property rights.
A counterfeit good is an unauthorised imitation of a branded good.
“Counterfeit trademark goods shall mean any goods, including packaging, bearing without authorisation a trademark which is identical to the trademark validly registered in respect of such goods, or which cannot be distinguished in its essential aspects from such a trademark, and which thereby infringes the rights of the owner of the trademark in question under the law of the country of importation” (TRIPS Agreement).
Piracy is the making of an unauthorised exact copy of an item.
“Pirated copyright goods shall mean any goods which are copies made without the consent of the right holder or person duly authorised by the right holder in the country of production and which are made directly or indirectly from an article where the making of that copy would have constated an infringement of a copyright or a related right under the law of the country of importation” (TRIPS Agreement).
The delivery of a counterfeit product to a consumer whom the seller has misled can result in various negative consequences for you:
- Non-receipt of the ordered product, as the customs authority, intercepts the counterfeited product and destroys it
- Non-receipt of the ordered product, as something else is delivered
- Loss of the money paid for the product
- Receipt of a financial demand from the right–holder
Fortunately, if you live in an EU Member State and buy from a seller within a Member State or a seller targeting EU consumers, you are protected by several European Laws. Nevertheless, if the seller is situated outside of the EU, it may be difficult for you to obtain all your rights. If the seller is a fraudulent one, your only possibility is to start chargeback procedures through the bank or credit card company.
The counterfeiter’s only concern is to imitate an object, and therefore, there could be materials that can be very different from the ones used by the authentic producer. According to Europol, certain items should never be purchased, including medicines and pharmaceutical products, since these products might contain ingredients that may cause irreversible health problems or even prove to be fatal. Other products include cigarettes and alcohol, clothing, batteries, and other electronic goods, as most of these items are not tested to meet the requirements of the CE marking certificate. This certificate gives peace of mind that the product meets all the legal requirements and can be sold in the European Economic Area. One should always keep in mind that when purchasing a counterfeit product, the EU customs administrations have the authority to detain and even destroy the counterfeited product.
Price – This can be the first indicator that the product is fake, although this might not always be the case. Usually, counterfeited goods tend to be cheaper than genuine brands. To make it more attractive, counterfeiters attract you by heavily discounting the object to trick consumers into believing that they are purchasing an authentic product, ultimately leaving the consumer with an imitation rather than the indicated bargain.
Quality – Counterfeited products are usually made up of inferior quality, often much poorer than the original, as their primary interest is the profits rather than the brand’s name. Carefully observe the seams and labels on the product as often they are flawed and carelessly made. Consumers must check for the correct spelling of the brand’s name and that no details in the logo are missing or differ from the original one. Labels and the laundry instructions must be read, and the text should be checked, as it is quite common that there is some form of misspelling.
Packaging – Most high street brands and businesses invest in high-quality packaging. Therefore, if the received object is in ill-fitting or suspicious packaging or wrapped in cheap plastic or other flimsy materials, this should raise a warning sign that the object is not authentic.
The store you are buying from – Usually, only specific retailers are authorised to sell the products of a particular brand. When a consumer chooses to purchase from an unauthorised retailer, there is peace of mind that the object bought is authentic. One can double-check by entering the official website and verify if the retailer’s name is listed as authorised to sell their products.
Payment Method – Whether you are buying in-person or online, you should use a credit card as it is much safer and will contain the details of all the transactions. When buying in person, one must check that the transaction included the right amount, especially when shopping abroad. For online users, always make sure that you are buying from a website whose address begins with HTTPS:// and a lock symbol, which means that the website complies with the quality requirements of the mark and promises a secure online shopping experience. Most traders request payment from their customers via credit card or debit card; however, some traders request other payment types, such as bank transfers. Act cautiously and always keep the receipt of the purchased object and the other confirmation if the product is purchased online.
You should also verify other issues before purchasing the product when buying online. Carefully inspect the website as sometimes there might be misspellings, grammatical errors, and sometimes even the photo quality is inferior. Furthermore, verify the seller’s identity. If available, you must check for the seller’s contact details like the company’s name, geographical address, email address or contact form, phone, and fax number.
It does not mean that because there is an address, then the company is real, as a seller may use an address and never set up a company in that address. The address is only used to give the impression that the company exists and deceives potential consumers. You should also check for online reviews, whereby you can read on previous consumers’ experiences and make your judgement whether to buy or not from a particular trader. Do not trust URL address; just because an address ends with .it or .uk or another European extension does not necessarily mean that the company is located within the EU.
We understand that you will be happy when you get a bargain. However, there is no reason to purchase a fake product at a lower price because you are only purchasing a similar product which might be risky to your health and safety. Always remember:
IF A DEAL IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, THEN IT PROBABLY IS!