Counterfeit perfumes - how to smell a fake

CHOICE sniffs out the facts on the counterfeit perfume business.
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  • Updated:21 Nov 2007

02.How to avoid a fake

If you’re not buying a fragrance from a major retailer (who purchased it from the authorised distributor), here are some things to look out for, to reduce your chance of buying a fake:

  • What does it cost? If the price seems too low, chances are it’s not the genuine article.
  • Where is it being sold? Street corner, flea market, suspect online website? If it looks dodgy, it probably is.
  • Look at the packaging. Are there any misspellings? Does the country of origin match the country usually on the product? Is the printing or cardboard of poor quality? If you’ve got an old box, take it shopping with you, for comparison.
  • If you can, look at the contents. Are there differences in colour or consistency from the normal product? It should be clear and not overly oily.
  • How does the product smell? It shouldn’t be bitter or sour. Spray some on a piece of cardboard, then go away for half an hour. Does the fragrance last?
  • Ensure the seller guarantees the perfume is 100% genuine (some offer a certificate of authenticity) and has a return policy if you’re not happy with the product.

How's it getting in?

The Australian Customs Service told CHOICE that since February 2006, over 31,500 counterfeit fragrances have been seized by officials. The fake goods are arriving in Australia as air or sea cargo commercial shipments as well as through the post and in the possession of travellers. The ones that make it through undetected are likely to be sold cheaply at discount stores, markets and online.

According to authorised Australian importers, counterfeit goods are also finding their way in among shipments of ‘parallel imports’. Parallel imports are goods that have been legitimately purchased directly from wholesalers overseas, rather than from the official distributor or manufacturer in Australia. This generally allows them to be sold for a lower price.

Parallel importing has been legal since 2000, and has had a significant impact on the perfume market in Australia, accounting for approximately 35% of fragrance sales. It helps explain why you can now readily find discounted perfumes, both online and in some retail outlets.

While this is a plus for the consumer, some industry experts say that with it comes a higher risk of picking up a counterfeit. However, some online retailers CHOICE spoke to that rely on parallel importing assured us they only purchase their perfumes from large, reputable distributors and check their products for signs of counterfeit.

Counterfeiting of all kinds is estimated to be a $600 billion a year problem worldwide, and according to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition in the United States, the profits have been linked to funding organised crime, drug trafficking and even global terrorism.


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