Giving consumers authentication tools 'not always wise'

Consumers have more technological tools at their disposal than ever before, and some brand owners would like to empower term to authenticate purchases.

Is that a good idea? Not always, says a new white paper from authentication specialist Authentix. Aside from data indicating that consumers are actually not very likely to scan on-pack or on-product codes – the most common means of authentication - this type of interaction "leads brand owners into unknown waters," it says.

"With consumer authentication, marketing and legal will need to confront the potential brand impact of a false positive or, more dangerous, a false negative," according to the paper. A false positive risks loss of a customer and damaged reputation, while the liability implications of a false negative – particularly if the item has health or safety implications – could be very serious.

For that reason, consumer authentication should be considered a last line of defense for brand protection, and certainly should not divert resources from other efforts such as shoring up supply chain security. More important – it says – is to have inspectors sample and test product to identify weaknesses in the supply chain in real time, for example though the use of covert security markers and discreet reader devices.

"The conversation should be about how we enable more sampling to be conducted by trained inspectors before the counterfeits make it to the shelves and before placing consumers at risk," concludes the paper

"If consumers are warily scanning a product and questioning a product's authenticity on the shelf of a legitimate retailer, then brand owners have already lost."

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