One in five consumers bought fake cosmetics online last year

Online sales of cosmetics and personal care products have rocketed during the pandemic, but that is raising the risk of exposure to potentially harmful counterfeits, says a new study.

The survey by Ipsos found that 65 per cent of consumers said they were buying more cosmetics online than a year ago, and around one in five (19 per cent) had unwittingly bought a counterfeit whilst shopping on digital channels in the last year, with another 16 per cent unsure.

The poll – conducted on behalf of cybersecurity company Smart Protection – also revealed that while 72 per cent of respondents were aware of the risks of counterfeit, almost as many (69 per cent) say they would find it hard or impossible to identify a fake.

Worryingly, 20 per cent of consumers intentionally bought fake goods on the basis that it was as good but cheaper as the real thing, with more than half doing so regularly, and 21 per cent of those who bought a counterfeit did so for their children.

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40 per cent of those surveyed saying they are concerned that counterfeits can contain harmful substances. That's a valid fear, given recent incidents in which fake perfumes were found to contain antifreeze, urine and methanol, with knock-off make-up containing potentially harmful levels of aluminium as well as arsenic and mercury.

Brands should be worried, according to Smart Protection, because one in five consumers said they would stop shopping with the official brand if they were to unintentionally purchase a fake, and 16 per cent said the brand accountable for the level of counterfeit goods advertised and sold online.

Dove, Nivea, L'Oréal, Chanel, Sure, and Olay were listed as the top six brands which consumers believe are the most susceptible to counterfeits and brand abuse online.

"Our internal data shows that 70 per cent of beauty and personal care brands suffer from counterfeits within digital marketplaces, whilst 60 per cent suffer from brand abuse throughout online channels," says the company.

Around 40 per cent of infringements are within marketplaces, with the remainder split roughly equally between social networks and rogue sites which try to dup shoppers into thinking they are operated by the brand.

"Brand name and brand reputation play a huge part in the success of key players within the beauty industry, and significant resources are made available for marketing and advertising campaigns to build awareness, recognition, and ultimately sales," said Smart Protection.

"However, the illicit sale of counterfeit goods is undermining those efforts."

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