The lure of a bargain is hard to resist, but is it worth the risk? The experts we spoke to were all in agreement on one thing: "If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is." Even if it’s a genuine product, a lower price may indicate that it’s passed its use-by date or has been stored incorrectly or for too long.
The Fragrance Foundation Australia says there’s only one way to be 100% sure a perfume is genuine, and that’s by buying from outlets that purchase products from the authorised distributors, such as Myer, David Jones, certain pharmacies, speciality stores and websites like www.adorebeauty.com.au.
An example of a major company that has taken steps to protect itself and consumers from counterfeits is Coty Australia, distributor of fragrances such as Calvin Klein, Jennifer Lopez and JOOP!. It has established a network of authorised stockists, including online retailers, which only stock legitimate perfumes purchased directly from the company.
If you do come across a fake, contact the store you purchased it from, or the Australian company that distributes the product. If it’s determined to be fake, it’s up to the trademark owner to launch civil legal action against the seller of the item.
If you’ve bought a perfume from other than an authorised stockist, you may not get your money back if it turns out to be fake, which is why it’s wise to check their return policy before buying. The online perfume store www.perfume.com.au offers a $40 verification service of your perfume if you’re unsure whether you’ve bought the real thing.
If you’re after a bargain, you’re almost certain to think you’ve found one online, but this may not be true. According to intellectual property lawyer Stephen Stern, "These days, there’s probably more counterfeit on the internet than genuine product."
To minimise the risk of buying a shonky perfume, look for the following when purchasing from an Australian online store:
- An Australian Business Number (ABN). It’s often displayed with the company address.
- Contact details, including a contact phone number for customers, email address, street address (not a post office box) and mailing address.
- A returns policy. If the product’s faulty or not genuine, you’ll want to know how the store intends to deal with it. Australian-based stores have to comply with the Trade Practices Act, but they may also have provisions for situations the law doesn’t cover, or details on how they’d prefer to be contacted to ensure you get the best service.
- Be aware that you may have to pay postage when returning goods, even within Australia.
- If you’re buying a perfume from eBay, investigate the seller’s feedback by clicking on the feedback link, and beware of new sellers selling prestige fragrances — look for established retailers with a good reputation.
- Also check that they’re PayPal-verified, as sellers of counterfeit goods may not disclose their contact information to PayPal.
Note: overseas stores will be governed by their country’s consumer laws (if they exist), which may not offer the same protection as Australian laws.