What motivates deliberate counterfeit purchases?

Australian researchers have examined the factors that lead consumers to knowingly buy fake goods online - a key driver of the counterfeit trade.

Through interviews with counterfeit sellers and purchasers interacting via Facebook in Vietnam - focusing on luxury goods - in a bid to understand the phenomenon of counterfeiting and help guide the development of counter-measures.

The researchers - from Griffith University and Swinburne University of Technology - identify no fewer than nine external factors and seven internal factors that encourage counterfeit fashion item purchasing among younger people (Millennials).

The external motives identified were as follows:

  • Social acceptance - The belief there is nothing wrong with buying counterfeits;

  • Peer influence - Having friends or relations who have also bought counterfeits;

  • Sense of belonging - Creating an image of a higher social class, or seeking social acceptance;

  • Perceived risks (purchase) - Buying online is safer and more anonymous;

  • Perceived risks (usage) - Counterfeits should be good enough copies to avoid detection;

  • Affordability - Low price, which was primary motivating factor;

  • Accessibility - Buying online is easier;

  • Degree of justice and penalty - Enforcement against counterfeiting and penalties are low; and

  • Advantages of social networking sites - Likes and comments on sites make purchasing more attractive.

The internal motives identified by the team were:

  • Sense of adventure - the risk of discovery associated with the use of counterfeits can be a draw;

  • Fashion/novelty seeking - being able to stay up to date and 'trendy';

  • Sense of morality - More than two-thirds of respondents said they would feel no shame buying fakes;

  • Perception toward inequality - a minority linked luxury goods to social inequality, making the purchase of fakes a form of social levelling;

  • Perception toward the actual product - some buyers reported that genuine and fake goods are identical;

  • Quality acceptance - the quality of the counterfeit products is acceptable and provides good value; and

  • Purchasing experience/knowledge - Earlier purchases of counterfeits make buyers more likely to do so again.

"Millions of people sell goods online using anonymous accounts, making it very hard to regulate their activities," write the researchers in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services (November 2016).

"More efforts need to be put in educating customers on the issue of intellectual property in order to reduce the desire to seek out counterfeit products," they add. "This could make the shopping experience less enjoyable and help to decrease the attractiveness of counterfeits."

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