The clever new way to avoid counterfeit goods
It can be very difficult to tell the difference between genuine and fake goods, but one new website will help you avoid shelling out on a shoddy counterfeit.
A new website has been launched to help shoppers distinguish between genuine sellers of big brands and rogue traders of counterfeit goods.
Brand-i.org enables you to search for legitimate sellers of brands such as GHD, Ugg, Chanel, New Era, Liverpool FC, Adidas, Abercrombie & Fitch, and EA games, among others. So shoppers can be sure they’re buying a genuine item rather than a cheaply-made replica.
Launched in partnership with Trading Standards, Brand-i.org works like a search engine where the user looks for brands like Adidas or GHD and will be shown a list of approved retailers. Shoppers can search by brand or by item. The site also has a 'report a site' function enabling users to report sites they think may be selling illegitimate goods.
Counterfeit goods are big business
According to Trading Standards, fake luxury brand websites can attract over 120 million visits a year, and an estimated £82 billion is spent online on counterfeit goods. Meanwhile, in 2010 more than five million counterfeit items were seized by UK Border Agency officers - nearly 1.5 million more than in 2009.
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Whoever you want to complain to, make sure you follow these tips.See the guide
Often money raised from selling counterfeit or fake goods is used to fund more serious crimes – so if you buy a fake designer item you’re not just lining the pockets of con-men, you could be aiding far worse criminals such as terrorists.
Identifying fake goods
So, as well as using brand-i.org to search for genuine sellers, how else can you stay safe when shopping online for designer clothes or goods?
Firstly, be suspicious about bargains. If a price seems too good to be true then it usually is. Also look out for misspelt names and information on websites, and poorly designed logos.
Make sure you find out if the seller has a returns policy. To return something you need to be confident that you can find the seller after you’ve bought the goods. Most genuine websites will have a landline customer service number you can call as well as a proper address – not just a PO box or email address.
And don’t assume a site is ok just because it comes up high on a Google search or has a sponsored link on the search engine. Many sites selling fake and counterfeit goods feature highly in search results. Google has pledged to crack down on rogue advertisers and remove them from listings but has likened catching dodgy traders to a game of “cat and mouse”. In short, Google might be trying hard to only list legitimate websites, but it’s failing in many instances.
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It’s easy to get caught out
My sister recently bought some fake GHD hair straighteners – not intentionally, obviously. She Googled “GHD hair straighteners” and came across a site that appeared to be legitimate and displayed the GHD logo. The best thing was the hair straighteners were half price - £58 when they’re normally £120. So she bought them with her NatWest debit card.
The company gave her a parcel tracking number and she became suspicious when the parcel made its way from China to the UK. Her fears were confirmed when the parcel’s journey ground to a halt in Coventry – where Customs is based. A few days later she got a letter in the post from HMRC saying the straightners had been detained by the UK Border Agency as they were believed to be counterfeit.
The letter advised her that the straighteners were going to be destroyed and she should contact the seller for a refund and also check her bank account for any suspicious activity.
After a few emails to the fake website and some help from NatWest’s fraud department a full refund turned up in her bank account. All in all, she got off lightly – she got her money back, nothing seems amiss with her bank account or debit card and she didn’t end up with hair straighteners that could be dangerous.
What to do if you’ve been sold fake goods
If you bought goods which were sold as genuine and turn out to be fake, they are not ‘as described’ - this means that the seller breached their contract with you. Return them and ask the seller for a refund.
If the seller refuses to give you a refund, then you could take the seller to court. You could also consider reporting the seller to Trading Standards. However this could be tricky if the seller disappears, you don’t have a genuine address for them or they’re based overseas.
If you buy fake goods from abroad online, customs may confiscate them when they arrive in the UK. You will lose the goods and you may lose the money you have paid for them.
However, if you pay by credit card and the bill is more than £100, you may be able to claim the money back through your credit card provider. This is all down to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act - for more on this brilliant protection, have a read of How section 75 can protect you.