Survey reveals "alarming" views on the quality of counterfeits

One in five Americans believe the quality of counterfeit products is on a par with their genuine counterparts, a recent survey reveals.

More than 2,000 Americans were surveyed by Harris Poll on behalf of The US Golf Manufacturers Anti-Counterfeiting Working Group (The Golf Group) to identify the public's perceptions of counterfeit products, across golfing and other sectors.

The results, described by The Golf Group as "alarming", highlight a gap in awareness over the quality of fakes when in reality there is no way to verify the quality of the process or materials used to make counterfeit products.

While 22 per cent of Americans overall considered quality to be equal across fake and genuine products, the survey also showed that Millennials (those aged 18-34) were more likely to consider the quality of counterfeits and genuine products as the same (29 per cent) compared with those aged 35-44 (26 per cent).

Meanwhile, fashion products were believed to be more of a frequent target for counterfeiters, cited by 86 per cent, compared with golf products, where only 58 per cent said they thought the golf sector was a frequent target for counterfeiters.

Golf product manufacturers are, however, increasingly finding themselves competing with counterfeiters who produce millions of fake clubs, balls, and other products and apparel every year. In July, more than 1,000 fake golf products were seized in China, while several other large counterfeiting operations have been shut down over the past couple of years.

"A lot of people feel like they're saving money or getting a high-quality product at a discount when they buy a counterfeit, but counterfeit products that have a utility simply don't perform at the same level or for the same amount of time as the real products," said Rawleigh Grove, vice president and general counsel for golf equipment manufacturer PING.

"Real golf clubs, in particular, are built to last. Counterfeits, on the other hand, aren't manufactured under the same quality control standards. We've heard many stories of counterfeit clubs breaking after one round. There's not much savings in that scenario."

The survey also revealed that while 77 per cent of Americans said buying known counterfeits was unethical, 29 per cent said they would consider purchasing fakes if it saved them money. Furthermore, 24 per cent said they didn't care if a product they purchased was counterfeit as long as it looked like the real thing.

Meanwhile, 39 per cent of people aged under 45 admitted that they would consider purchasing counterfeit products, while just 22 per cent of people over the age of 45 would make the same judgement.

Similar findings on the perceptions of the quality of fake products and the motivations behind buying such products were revealed in an Australian research project in October where beliefs among Millennials included: that genuine and fake products were considered identical; that the quality of counterfeit products is acceptable and provides good value; and that counterfeits should be good enough copies to avoid detection.

And the perception appears to extend to online marketplaces when, in June, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma said counterfeit goods were now better quality and better value for money than the genuine articles. Many manufacturers, which have criticised Alibaba for listing fake products, were left shocked by the comments.

Brian Lynch, senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for golf manufacturer Callaway Golf, said more work was needed to improve the public's awareness about counterfeits.

"We will continue to devote resources to help close the gap in the public's knowledge of counterfeit products. As people become more aware of the problem, they will know how to spot the telltale signs of these illegal operations and consequently stop buying counterfeit products."

As part of The Golf Group's awareness campaign, it will distribute material at the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show in January, which will help inform golfers about the risks associated with buying counterfeit products or buying from unauthorised retailers.

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