Quarter of US consumers bought fakes online last year; report

A survey found that 26 per cent of US consumers were tricked into buying a fake product in the last 12 months, and 27 per cent never got a refund from the online retail they bought it from.

The poll by Sapio Research – on behalf of brand protection firm Incopro – also found that a third (32 per cent) of respondents felt that online retailers aren’t doing enough to curb the sale of counterfeit goods on their platforms.

The median amount lost per person was $69, which the researchers suggest reflects that more individuals are buying expensive goods – such as electronics – online.

The findings come amid efforts by the US government to crackdown on the online trade in fake goods.

Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order instructing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to consider “appropriate measures” to make sure e-commerce sites like Amazon, eBay, Alibaba and take steps for monitoring, detecting, and preventing trafficking in counterfeit and pirated goods.

Shortly afterwards, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced new legislation seeking to make e-commerce companies liable for fakes sold on their websites.

The SHOP SAFE act would establish trademark liability for companies who sell counterfeits that pose a risk to consumer health and safety and also require online platforms to establish best practices to vet sellers to ensure their legitimacy.

The Sapio/Incopro poll reveals once again the potential impact on brand owners by fake products, as 52 per cent of respondents said they had lost trust in a brand after unintentionally purchasing counterfeit products online.

It also reveals another problem: as fakes become more endemic, consumer behaviour appears to be changing, with almost a third (32 per cent) of shoppers considering buying fake clothing, jewellery and leather goods.

At the same time – 33 per cent of respondents said they either wouldn’t care or would view it as a positive if the trade war between the US and China led to more fakes reaching the US market, although two-thirds viewed that as negative, rising to 83 per cent of the 55 to 64 age bracket.

Risky behaviour

Other elements of the survey reveal an alarming lack of awareness among consumers about the risks that counterfeit goods can pose. Two-thirds were aware that fake pharmaceuticals are a big problem, but only 6 per cent cited fake cosmetics as a threat, even though seized goods have been found to contain toxic materials like cyanide, arsenic and lead.

The same proportion knew that knock-off automotive parts were potentially dangerous, and one in five said they would consider buying them.

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