.The real thing?
Knock-off products are no longer
easily identified by misspelled logos
and shoddy craftsmanship, as
counterfeit investigator Phill
Arnold discovered for himself. He’s still
unsure whether his pair of Adidas shoes
is genuine or fake - he bought them at an
upmarket mall in China, where he paid a
little bit less than he would have for a pair of
genuine Adidas shoes. The salesperson said
they were counterfeits, but when Arnold
asked someone at Adidas they couldn’t tell.
While the quality of counterfeit products
appears to be improving, the counterfeiters
are also getting smarter at marketing their
products. Techniques such as paid search
results ads and search engine optimisation are
being used by counterfeiters to lure consumers
to their sites, and dodgy sellers sometimes use
images from a brand’s most recent advertising
campaigns to boost their credibility.
Online auction houses like eBay specify that
counterfeit products are not to be sold, but it
doesn’t stop the counterfeiters. These days it's easy to fake tags, receipts and authenticity cards. The fact
that online auction houses also sell genuine products means it’s
hard for consumers to know whether or not they’re getting the
Online trade portals, which are business-to-business
sites for importers and distributors, are often infiltrated by
counterfeiters, according to Arnold. Individuals wanting
to make a buck are also known to purchase knock-offs on
these trade portals and resell them for a profit on online
Counterfeiters have become so sophisticated that it seems
even retailers might be being duped. Target, which is owned by
Wesfarmers, is facing court action for allegedly placing fake MAC
cosmetics on its shelves last year. MAC Cosmetics (an Estée Lauder brand)
has said it tested the products and found they were counterfeit.
While Target has not admitted the cosmetics were fake, it did not
order the product through official channels.
Sourcing legitimately branded products through unofficial
channels, also known as parallel importing, is legal in Australia
(with some exceptions) and is something that, in principle,
CHOICE agrees with. Parallel imports can be a powerful way
to reduce costs for consumers through increased competition -
however, it should be noted that importation through
unauthorised channels and supply chains may increase the
risk of consumers being exposed to unsafe products.
Parallel importation does not necessarily mean products are
fake, or a safety concern, and parallel imports sold in Australia
are subject to the same safety regulations and standards as
However, there is a risk of counterfeit products posing as parallel
imports, a Unilever spokesperson told CHOICE.
Late last year, a 40-tonne shipment of counterfeit Omo laundry powder from China was prevented from reaching the Australian
market when it was seized by customs.
Unilever, which owns Omo, says all
products are tested so they are safe
for consumers, whereas counterfeit
products may not be.
“Counterfeit stock can contain
cheap untested ingredients that aren’t
as effective as those found in genuine
products. At worst, these ingredients can
damage clothes and have the potential
to cause skin irritation in people with
sensitive skin,” warns Mary Weir
Parallel imports are
common in Australia,
such as Woolworths
sourcing more products this way because
it can be more cost effective.
“When we know we are not getting a
good deal locally, we are willing to take up
parallel importing opportunities where
there can be a guarantee on quality, supply,
regulation and standards compliance,” said a Woolworths spokesperson.
However, Woolworths would not supply
information to CHOICE on how it would
protect its supply chains from counterfeits.
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