Deals and discounts are two magic words that everyone loves. As soon as the ‘Online Mega Sale’ starts, palms begin to itch, heart starts racing, mind starts to analyse & strategize, the sudden urge to own everything (even if you don’t need it) rises and how can we forget those endless hours spent on calculating how much you are going to save. However hold on to your horses before you place your next order as the menace aka ‘fake products’ are infiltrating the online market place at a rapid speed.
Booming Fake Counterfeit Market in India via Online Shopping
According to a news report published in DNA, 25% of fake luxury goods are sold through online shopping portals in India. The report stated that representatives of International brands like Lacoste, Gucci, Mont Blanc have categorically mentioned that products sold online for throw-away prices under their brand name are fake. Rajesh Jain, Director and CEO of Lacoste India said to DNA, “Except for our perfumes and sunglasses, every other product branded as Lacoste and sold on any third-party website is a fake.”
The luxury goods counterfeit market has always been a matter of concern for retailers and consumers. Copies of luxury products such as bags, apparels, watches, shoes, belts, pens, perfumes and jewellery are found in abundance. With online shopping coming in the picture, the fake goods market has got a boost due to the anonymity it offers, the ever-increasing greed for discounts and the consumer fixation with ‘brands’. Based on a report prepared by ASSOCHAM (The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India), the Indian Luxury Counterfeit market is close to Rs 2,500 crore that accounts to 5-6% of the total luxury market of our country, that is about Rs 49,000 crore. Furthermore, it is growing at a steady pace of 40-45 percent annually, which will lead to it touching 6,000 crore by 2016.
Who is to be blamed?
Are online shopping site owners to be blamed? Not exactly! No reputed brand would like to be associated with fake products on purpose. And in this day and age of stiff competition, none of the big players want to lose customer trust and loyalty just to make some extra money. The real issue lies in screening shady dealers and suppliers from the genuine lot.
Big players like Jabong, Myntra, Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and eBay have stringent policies when it comes to selling original goods. Although when it’s a market place with multiple sellers, like in the case of Amazon, Snapdeal, Flipkart and eBay, fake products have a smoother route to enter and spread.
Case of fakes and corrective measures taken by Indian ecommerce honchos
Take for example Flipkart. Founded in 2007, Flipkart became an official marketplace in 2013, making its selling format quite similar to Amazon. In simple words it means, inviting multiple sellers for trading individual products. Now they offer a same product like a Nokia X mobile phone or Lenovo speakers, available from multiple vendors that vary in price, delivery time and offers. Did this step lead to the nuisance of fakes on the Flipkart? Quite possibly yes!
As a result, earlier this month, sellers on Flipkart received a stern email with subject title – ‘Flipkart Announcement: Precautionary message- Fake products can get you blacklisted’. No prizes for guessing, the purpose of this mail was to warn against selling fake products. Excerpt from the email read as, ‘As per our policy, if any seller is found to be selling a fake product, his/her account will be blacklisted with immediate effect. We have recently come across one such instance and the relevant action was taken against him.’
On the other hand, Jabong has still managed its original format of one seller per brand and maintains that all goods sold are original and are sourced from official distributors only. In the DNA report on fake products, Arun Chandra Mohan, founder and CEO of Jabong said, “You will never find a fake product on our platform as all brands, including premium/luxury, are either sourced directly from the brand owners or their authorised distributors in the country.” However Jabong hasn’t been spared of being accused of selling fakes either. On a consumer forum, one disgruntled consumer shared his experience of being sold a fake Chanel perfume by Jabong. While the shopping portal still maintains their stand on ‘zero tolerance policy towards counterfeit products’, the rants posted on consumer forums tell another story. Same is the case with Myntra.
As for Amazon, eBay and Snapdeal, the policies do exist on papers and the process to become a seller is extensive but seldom stringent measures are taken to curb fake sellers, once reported.
No Shortage of Takers Though
But don’t you wonder how this fake luxury market is flourishing? After all haven’t we studied the basic economics principle of Law of Demand, which states – Demand is Equal to Supply. While there are consumers who feel cheated when sold replicas and bogus products. There are a number of people who readily encourage this market by buying them knowingly. The lure of flaunting branded bag, watch, t-shirt or belt available at unbelievable prices can be too tempting for many. This hidden desire for ‘status symbol’ is one for the driving force behind the ever growing counterfeit market. Till the desire is there, so will the supply. The day the demand stops, the supply will dwindle gradually, if not completely.
Keeping aside those who consciously buy fake goods, there are many who are cheated unsuspectingly, thanks to those who manage to duplicate products without any flaw. Nearly 80% of counterfeit products such as bags, jewellery, watches, shoes, perfumes etc come from China. As the B2B trade deals happen across the border online and it exchanges hands several times, tracking and tracing the route of such products becomes a very difficult job. Measures are taken to control such activities by brand owners, retailers & lawmakers and create awareness among consumers; however there is still a long way to get the situation under complete control.
How to Spot Fakes?
In the meanwhile, how can one spot a fake product? Not easy. The imitations are too close to the real deal and who wouldn’t love to get a lucrative discount on the item they have been eyeing for months. But keep in mind few points just to be cautious:
- Remember, there are deals, good deals, great deals and amazing deals. And then there are too-good-to-be-true deals. It is the last one that one needs to be careful about as chances of it being a bogus are high. For example a Dior bag worth Rs 1 lakh available for mere Rs. 5000!
- Video tutorials about spotting a fake, especially in case of perfumes are of great help. For instance, this YouTube video explains the difference between real and fake Bleu De Chanel.
- Visit the official brand website to see the product features, look, packaging, labels, logo placement etc. This can help to make a wiser choice to a large extent.
- Customer reviews and seller information come in handy too.
- Although, the most important thing is to report and share your feedback, if you do come across a fake product. This will go a long way to eliminate dubious sellers and clean up the online marketplace!