With Black Friday around the corner and Christmas on the horizon, consumers across the globe are on the lookout for the very best deals. Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Lowe’s – a number of retailers are already rolling out deals in a bid to get consumers early and keep them shopping up until Black Friday and Christmas.
This period marks a huge business opportunity for retailers to sell more products and generate revenue – UK consumers spent more than £50bn around Christmas last year, with £3bn of that being spent just on Black Friday. But it’s not just retailers profiting at this time of the year: counterfeit sellers are getting in on it too.
Throughout the year, fraudsters take advantage of the intellectual property (IP) of legitimate businesses by creating low-quality – but convincing – counterfeits and selling them at a discounted rate to make a quick profit. These sellers don’t care about safety or product standards or even ruining Christmas, they just want a quick buck.
So, when it comes around to Black Friday and Christmas – the days that usually generate the most revenue for legitimate retailers – counterfeiters ramp up their efforts to get in on the act, flooding marketplaces with counterfeit replicas.
An independent report commissioned by Corsearch found price to be the biggest sign for consumers to spot a counterfeit product when shopping online. But as prices drop for legitimate products around Black Friday and Christmas, it becomes almost impossible to tell what’s real and what’s not just from the cost.
Counterfeit products storming the borders at Christmas
According to an article by the BBC, in the run up to Christmas the number of counterfeit products entering the UK increases dramatically. Last year alone, UK border officials seized counterfeit products worth several million pounds ahead of Christmas. The most popular goods seized included clothes (Nike trainers) electronics (PlayStation controllers), the latest toys, and much, much more.
The article also highlights that counterfeiters are also highly aware of the trends in the marketplace, producing goods that are in demand to maximise returns. The end result is that with these convincing counterfeits, many consumers are left out of pocket with inferior and potentially dangerous goods.
Be aware of the health and safety risks of counterfeit products
Counterfeit electronics at Black Friday and Christmas are a major concern. Counterfeiting has come a long way, so it’s entirely possible for counterfeit sellers (with the right equipment and know-how) to create replicas of specific electronic devices using subpar components.
Earlier this year, Electrical Safety First (ESF) found that one in three UK consumers – around 18 million people – has mistakenly purchased a counterfeit electrical item online.
The key issue here is that any electronic device created using subpar materials will have structural and mechanical inconsistencies or vulnerabilities that can lead to device failure. An in-depth report by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) highlights these issues, stating that once counterfeit devices, components and spare parts enter manufacturing supply chains, they can “add fire, shock and explosion risks that may cost workers their lives” – the very same risks consumers will be exposed to should devices fail.
With consumers on the lookout for things like gaming consoles, laptops, mobile phones, tablets and other cool electronic products this Black Friday and Christmas, it’s essential that they buy from legitimate sellers in order to avoid any potential health and safety risks. This applies to all goods – not just electronics!
Makeup is another product category that will no doubt be plagued with counterfeit products this Christmas as consumers look for designer brands at a discount but have significant health and safety issues. According to police and trading standards officials, counterfeit cosmetics often contain substances such as cyanide, mercury and even faeces.
Stick to reputable and trusted traders/retailers
Online marketplaces have made it possible for anyone to sell products wherever, whenever, and while this has no doubt boosted ecommerce, it’s also made it incredibly easy for counterfeit sellers to set up illegitimate stores online.
The reality is that anyone can be a counterfeiter nowadays. In 2017, £300,000 worth of fake goods (street value) were seized from a house in Newcastle, with the items believed to have been sold as Christmas presents. Officers who entered the property described it as looking like “Aladdin’s Cave”, with fakes from high-end luxury brands such as Gucci, Chanel, Michael Kors and Yves St Laurent being seized.
Taking this into account, consumers should do everything they can to verify sellers and identify whether products are real or fake. Over the Christmas period it can be tempting to go for appealing deals, but if those deals are too good to be true or on websites that seem illegitimate, chances are the item is fake. Consumers should stick to reputable and trusted traders, as well as websites offering legitimate deals.
Spotting counterfeit products online is far more difficult than at a shop or market but can be done.
Corsearch’s Brand Advisor, Tosshan Ramgolam recently created a series of tips to help consumers spot counterfeits online.
Brands must crack down on counterfeit sellers this Black Friday and Christmas
One popular tactic used by counterfeit sellers to fool consumers into buying fake products is called ‘cybersquatting’ – creating a website which replicates the look and feel of a legitimate brand’s website. Counterfeit sellers create a fake website – one which includes identical branding and design to a brand’s official website – and use a domain name which is close to the brand’s own one to increase traffic to the site.
What cybersquatting does is create a feeling of authenticity. Unsuspecting consumers arrive on these counterfeit websites and on first glance see nothing amiss. They see the products they want to purchase for Christmas, add them to their cart, enter their payment details and purchase the products. It isn’t until those products arrive and undergo careful inspection or the consumer experiences a problem that they become aware of them being counterfeits.
To combat counterfeit brand websites, brands can apply to the domain name registry to seize control of the infringing domain name and have the website shut down. Alternatively, they can apply for a website blocking order – a court injunction that require ISPs to take steps to prevent customers accessing particular websites that have been identified as infringing intellectual property rights.
Finally, brands can deploy sophisticated software to trawl the web and identify counterfeit products, allowing them to facilitate a swift takedown of infringing domains.
Brands must do as much as they can to protect their customers from counterfeit products this Black Friday and Christmas. The inclusion of intelligence-led online brand protection technologies is a must for any brand. Not only will these technologies help to defend brands’ intellectual property, it will also help to identify infringements across the web.
However, consumers must also be vigilant at this time of year. The true responsibility lies with brands, yes, but there are steps consumers can take to ensure they avoid counterfeit products and only buy from reputable, legitimate sellers.
Just how damaging are counterfeit products to brand value – and what can brands do to protect themselves?