Viewpoint: Jenny Dalton, Director of anti-counterfeit shopping directory Brand-i

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Many consumers buy fake goods online without realising they are counterfeit. We get emails daily from people complaining that something looked legitimate on a website and they only realised they had been ripped off when they opened the package.

It is happening more frequently now because the retail websites that the counterfeiters set up look increasingly convincing. They steal the graphics and branding from the actual brand to make them look like the real thing. Both the Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister counterfeit sites look exactly the same as the genuine sites. You have to examine the smallprint to realise that it is not the genuine brand site.

Clues are if the email address does not contain the brand in the server name, if the company is based in China, if the delivery time is over a week and if the seller is requesting money transfer by something like Western Union.

The requests we are getting from consumers are pointing us at new markets that we weren’t aware of when we first started. For example, headphones now take up a huge slice of the online fake market. Likewise, batteries and medicines are hugely counterfeited, and we’re getting lots of complaints about things like sports supplements and even pet food. It’s a much wider problem than brands and consumers are aware of.

Educating consumers should be a collaborative approach. They are, in fact, the key because if they turn against counterfeiters you reduce the demand and could get rid of the problem altogether.

Many companies think it will devalue their brand if they admit this problem exists. However, we think it actually makes their brand appear stronger if they are willing to share this kind of information with consumers. It can be a positive marketing tool.

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