Typically everything that has a high demand in the market has been imitated by fake sellers. It’s a problem because it costs the US economy $200 billion to $250 billion every year in various industries, including apparel, toys, food, and electronics.
These bargains you get on high-end items are a part of counterfeit products, and they don’t only disappoint you but also cause harm by supporting crimes.
While purchasing a poor quality handbag might have a limited impact on you, it costs the rightful manufacturer millions of dollars. Other purchases can have more dire consequences.
Here’s everything you need to know about counterfeit consumer products and how to report them.
What are Counterfeit Consumer Products?
Product counterfeiting is a consumer fraud where an item is made from lower quality components and is sold, indicating to be something its not.
The fake sellers make cheap imitations of in-demand goods produced by known brands and distribute them under the brand’s label without permission. It is a big business globally, with counterfeit consumer products growing over 10,000% in the last two decades.
It started with the poor imitations of Rolex watches. Now, the products span across a range of industries, inc
luding clothing brands, electronics, cosmetics, playthings, food, and pretty much anything in high demand.
“Knockoff” is a colloquial term often used interchangeably with counterfeit, but they don’t mean the same in legal terms. Knockoff products copy the appearance of another brand’s products, but they do not have the same brand name or trademark.
Nevertheless, they can still be illegal if they confuse consumers.
Top 10 Counterfeit Consumer Products
Here’s a list of the ten most counterfeited products across the US.
Counterfeit toys can be a threat to your child’s health due to the toxic chemicals found in the poor-quality items. In 2013, the authorities seized five NY-based companies on charges of importing counterfeit toys from China.
The seized toys included popular characters, including SpongeBob, Winnie the Pooh, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Mickey Mouse.1
In 2017, approximately 10-12% of toys sold in the UK were counterfeit, and they primarily originated from China.
Consumer Electronics and Accessories
Everything from TVs to computers and hoverboards is prone to fake copies by fake sellers. These fake consumer goods tend to malfunction or don’t work at all due to their poor construction.
In worst-case scenarios, these appliances can cause electric currents or even explode, causing severe injuries or even burn your house down.
A total of 4,137 counterfeit consumer electronics were seized in 2017, and that means the market is big for electronics counterfeiters.
Counterfeiters copy CDs, videotapes, DVDs, and other media to sell them on the streets or online open auction sites such as eBay. These goods make about 3% of the seized counterfeit goods by agencies.
Although some DVDs are visibly fake with poor quality images, others are not that obvious. The CBP seized 809 shipments of counterfeited items Jn 2017. The items would have been worth more than $27 million if they were genuine.
In 2018, the authorities seized more than 70,000 pirated music and movie CDs from a single home in California.
It can be hard to imagine food being copied, but it’s happening out there. With increasing food prices of everything from coffee and chocolate to oil and tea, food fraud is a widely-documented crime in the US and Europe
The USP Convention listed milk, honey, saffron, black pepper, orange juice, and tea as mislabelled or contaminated products. Counterfeiters make these food items out of cheaper ingredients and sell them for lesser prices with misleading labels for profit.
About one-third of the countries around the globe lack effective medication managing agencies, giving way to counterfeit drugs. These drugs easily cross international borders through internet sales from online pharmacies that do not require prescriptions.
According to CBP, 8% of the seizures consist of fake medications. These fake drugs can be dangerous to health as they might be expired and far from the real thing.
Apparel and Accessories
In 2012, counterfeit apparel and accessories comprised about 29% of all the seizures. According to the OECD, big names like Louis Vuitton and Nike have been among the most counterfeited brands.
Jackets, dresses, and hoodies are the most copied clothing items around the US with 85-95% good coming from China. Sometimes the sellers deceive the naive buyers by making similar labels and imitating the brand logos.
At other times the sellers put serious effort into every detail to make the fake product look authentic. The Super Bowl is an important event for counterfeiters who copy sportswear and goods before the big game.
Many fashion brands have put effort into stopping counterfeits from spreading, including Louis Vitton, that has dedicated an entire team towards stopping the circulation of knockoffs.
There are thousands of seizures of counterfeit footwear around the US. In 2012, the government seized more than 1,900 articles amongst which most of the footwear were knock offs of athletic shoes of high-end brands. The seized goods were mainly originated in China.
This illegal luxury shoe selling fuels many crimes, more often than the buyers can imagine. They actively buy these products when trendy styles are available for thousands of dollars less.
Tags and Labels
Counterfeit labels and tags are one of the most valuable items that are seized. In 2012, the tags and labels sealed from the US were worth more than $26 million.
You can find fake labels on everything, from handbags to clothing items and accessories. At times, the brand names are misspelled, or the materials used are of inferior quality. But that not always the case.
Many markets offer fake designer outfits with tags that look very close to authentic. From Armani tags on suits to the Levis logos on jeans, they are designed and sold at a fraction of the real thing’s price.
However, if you look very closely, you will find that the labels don’t look quite the same.
Jewelry and Watches
Counterfeit jewelry and watches are not the most commonly seized items, but they have a high market value due to their small sizes and high prices. The fake sellers can smuggle large amounts of goods with maximum value without worrying about size or space.
Copies of expensive watches continue to be popular counterfeit goods. We see more and more people with fake versions of watches from credible brands such as Rolex, Omega, Swatch and Submariner.
These watches look quite authentic, and they work just fine, but the quality is nowhere near the real ones. They can last you for quite a few years, which is a result of competition in the counterfeiting community.
In 2012, the seized value of watches and jewelry was about $187 million, which was higher than the previous year.
Handbags and Wallets
We all have seen someone we know with a fake Gucci handbag. That is because handbags and wallets are the most counterfeited items by far in terms of retail prices.
Global brands like Gucci, Versace, and Givenchy are regularly counterfeited and retailed as part of the original price.
The logos look a bit different, but otherwise, the bags are closely identical to the real ones in style and color. In 2017, less than 10% of CBP seizers were counterfeited handbags and wallets, but they were worth more than $234 million if they were real.
Since this is a serious problem for the fashion brands, they try to stop the circulation of knock offs by focusing entire teams on this matter. In its 2018 collection, Gucci painted “REAL” all over its bags.
How to Recognize Counterfeit Consumer Products?
If you are an online shopper, you will probably encounter counterfeit items at some point in time. Although there is no foolproof way to tell a bargain from a fake article, there are some signs that can give away a counterfeit.
Here’s a quick rundown of some major signs and tips that will help you solve safely.
One way to recognize a counterfeit is by checking the authenticity of the website, brand, or seller. If the website looks fake, the products are probably fake too. Some sites redirect you to a third-party seller, which raises the chances of counterfeit even more.
If you are unsure whether a seller is authentic, ask them about the source of the items and check the feedback on the page. However, the safest way to keep away from fake sites is to buy from the brand’s own website, which leaves no chance of counterfeit.
Another thing that stays consistent across the high-end brands is their good-quality packaging and most of them put their logos on it. If an item comes in a flimsy packaging or doesn’t fit the box, it’s probably counterfeit.
Similarly, if a shipment arrives with an anonymous or no packaging at all, take it as a sign of counterfeiting. Plus, look for any misspelled logos or design differences by comparing it with the brand’s original product.
Counterfeit consumer products usually display poor quality with tacky materials and old parts in electronic gadgets. The counterfeiters use fake leather, poor quality cloth, cheap glass, and other materials that come off as used.
The shape and sizes of the products can also vary and have a used feel to it. Do, if you know what the original product feels like, you can identify a counterfeit right away.
Who doesn’t like to get unreal discounts on high-end products? But, beware of unrealistically low prices.
If you are buying a product at a fraction of its original price, or a deal that sounds too good to be true, it probably is! So, next time you see an amazing deal on a third-party website, see if the brand typically offers this much discount.
Beyond that, if the circumstances of your purchase trigger your instincts such as price, or lack of receipt, back off.
Why is it Important to Report Counterfeit Consumer Products?
Counterfeit consumer goods come at a high cost. The real threat of these fake products is much more serious than you can imagine.
Firstly, counterfeiters use low-quality materials, which can have dire effects on your health. For instance, a knockoff skincare product might look very similar to the real one, but it can have toxic ingredients harmful to your skin.
Similarly, poor-quality toys have harmful chemicals that can threaten the health of the little ones. More serious products like car parts and tablets can cause severe injuries and even be life-threatening.
Apart from that, the brands are also victims of these bogus sellers as they can cut down their sales and can end up ruining their reputation. Moreover, the counterfeiters often use forced child labor and do not provide fair working conditions or wages to their workers.
However, you can stop all this by taking one small action. File a complaint. Let big brands know where you have bought a counterfeit so they can take action and help stop the criminals once and for all.
How to File a Complaint Against Counterfeiters?
If you have been burned, file a complaint right away to stop the crime. Here are two simple ways to report counterfeiters.
Write an Email
You could write an email or letter to the relevant authority or the ‘real’ brand. If you want your email to have positive consequences, make sure it is precise and effective.
Don’t forget to include your name, contact details and proof of payment.
File your Consumer Complaint Online
Too make sure your complaint get its deserved attention we advise to make your complaint visible online. Just post it on social media or report your complaint on our website.
We will make sure your complaint will be visible on our website, social media and search engines.
Whether you are an online shopper or someone who enjoys good deals from street sellers, you will encounter counterfeit consumer products at every step. The bargains you get might not only disappoint you but cause harm to others in society too.
Nonetheless, you have the power to stop counterfeiters. Simply don’t buy the product, or file a complaint if you already received the item and can’t return it.