SPOT+AVOID Replicas, Counterfeit, Fake Designer goods

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It may be difficult to know if you’re buying a fake when you buy online or bid for an item in an online auction. 

This general guide encourages buyers to be **SUSPICIOUS** particularly about ANY luxury or designer goods that appear to be  'bargains' - in particular,  goods being offered much cheaper than they should be (well below the brand's retail price).  (This guide is not applicable for antiquities or items such as furniture, paintings, photos, ornaments, pottery, coins, medals, artefacts (geological & archeological items) etc, as these require more specific advice and information - search useful guides for more info on your desired item)

Counterfeit goods are simply copies of goods that are in demand, that people will want to buy.  If YOU want to buy seemingly cheap luxury goods online, you should ALWAYS make some basic checks first.

Types of goods that have been counterfeit:

Jewllery & Watches, Bags, Clothing & Accessories (ie belts, scarves, hats), Footwear, Sunglasses, Wallets, Writing Pens, Electronics, Software, Computer Games, Media (DVD's, CD's, Memory cards), Artwork, Autographs, Medicines, Health & Beauty Products (ie nutritional supplements, perfumes, cosmetics, hair stylers), Power Tools, Bicycles etc - in fact if it's relatively expensive and in demand, chances are there are copies of it out there.

Luxury and designer brands that are targets for counterfeiting:

Cartier, Rolex, Tag Heur, Breitling, Hublot, Montblanc, Bvulgari, Hermes, Longines, Armani, Gucci, Versace, Burberry, D&G, Dior, Chanel, Loius Vuitton, Prada, Fendi, Hugo Boss, YSL, Seven, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Vivienne Westwood, Jimmy Choo, Ray Ban, Links of London, Tiffany & Co, Mulberry, Chloe, Miu Miu, Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Givenchy - in fact, the list includes most luxury/designer brands - nothing is exempt.

However, it isn't just luxury items that can befall the countereit industry - some high value brands available in the high street may also be targetted:

Nike & Adidas (especially expensive trainers & jackets), North Face, Helly Hanson, French Connection/FCUK,  Diesel, Ralph Lauren, Karen Millen, Radley, A+F, G-Star, Bench, GHD (there are many guides which highlight and detail specific goods that have been subject to counterfeiting - try searching for your particular item)

BEFORE YOU BUY - Signs to watch out for and checks you can make

1 - PRICE - Check the retail price (RRP) of the authentic item - is there a vast difference in the price?
2 - QUALITY - Check the quality of the item - is the one offered for sale made of the same material/metal, or same size, volume, etc as the authentic article? 
3 - AUTHENTICITY - Does the item have anything to support it's authenticity? (eg correct labels, certificate of authenticity from the trademark owner, offical purchase receipt, a serial number that can be verified, original box/case {boxes can also be counterfeit!}, evaluation from reputable dealer, etc)  Is a warranty offered (where appropriate)?
4 - SPELLING MISTAKES & DODGY LOGOS - Look out for incorrectly spelled names or poorly designed logos.
5 - TOO BRIEF DESCRIPTION - Be wary of scant or missing details given by seller - NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING just because it isn't mentioned or specified!  ASK seller for more info!  And if you don't get sufficient info - don't buy it!
6 - CLARITY OF DESCRIPTION - Be aware of the way language is used by the seller in the description - is it clear and specific, or unclear, ambiguous, or manipulative? eg - 'I cannot guarantee the authenticity of the item';  'not sure if it's gold (or silver)'; 'I believe it to be gold'; 'this is from the estate of a collector and I don't know much about it'; 'item comes in original box with all bits'; 'this is an original remake' - seller will also ensure the item's alleged brand & RRP is mentioned in the listing, and insist that the item will be a 'bargain for someone' practically begging people to bid.  Remember, sellers of counterfeit items ALWAYS know whether the item is authentic or fake.  (Some sellers may even be offloading their own 'bad purchase' to recoup lost money.)
7 - RESERVE PRICE - does the auction have a reserve price?  If not, does the auction start with a realistic or near true-to-value start price?  If not, for items over £100, this would be a very unusual and high risk step  - sellers of genuine valuable items would set a higher start price or sensible reserve (and have no need to use a private auction).  Sellers of fake items will nearly always use a 99p auction with no reserve to reduce their listing fees
8 - PRIVATE LISTING - is it a private listing that hides bidder identities? If so, be careful of shill bidding activities which may be used by sellers of counterfeit goods to inflate the final price of the item (especially when the auction also started at 99p and no reserve was set)
9 - MULTIPLE LISTINGS OF SAME GOODS - when luxury designer brands are offered - does the seller have a multiple quantity of the same branded items? Perhaps in different sizes/colours/styles?  If so, is the seller a well known national chain? If so, they have usually been granted reselling rights.  If not, are they an independent authorized dealer that has permission to resell the brand and can they be easily verified by checking the brand's authorized dealers list on their website?
10 - PRIVATE SELLER - If a private seller, is it a new 'unwanted gift'?  If so, have they previously sold a similar item claiming the same thing?  Do they have more of them on offer? - Check their completed listings and feedback as a seller.  You can also use advanced search for seller, to check a seller's buying history over the last 30 days (I have seen some sellers buy fakes & auction them straight away - it was shown in their feedback!)
11 - RESEARCH - Check the internet for sites selling the same 'replica' items - does the online seller ship internationally, and how much are they selling the fake versions for? (Remember some auction sellers will have bought from these overseas sites at their low prices, purely to sell on ebay for a lot more). Check blogs/forums where these goods are 'outed' and discussed.
12 - SECOND HAND GOODS - Be particularly vigilant with second hand/used goods offered for sale, as these are often sold without retail packaging, certificates of authenticity etc and are thus easier to pass off as an authentic article - REMEMBER vintage/antique items may not be authentic either (some fake/replica items have been around for many decades - but are still relatively worthless).
13 - RETURNS - Check if the seller has a returns policy.  To return goods, you need to be 100% confident that you wll be able to  find the seller after you’ve bought the goods.  (NB: Take extra care if goods are being sold in places where it’ll be difficult to contact the seller later - eg at street markets, car boot sales, pubs and computer fairs.)

If still in doubt, just walk away!

Reasons to avoid buying counterfeit goods

- POOR QUALITY - The goods will likely be sub-standard, faulty or dangerous. For example, fake cosmetics may cause skin rashes and fake car parts may be faulty and cause accidents.

- RETURNING FAULTY FAKES - if the fake goods are damaged, faulty or stop working, you may have difficulty returning them or getting your money back.

-  BUYING FROM ABROAD - If you buy fake goods from abroad online, customs may confiscate them when they arrive in the UK. You will lose the goods and you may also lose the money you have paid for them.

- Buying fake goods means the original maker of the goods won't get any money from the sale - eg a computer games company will end up with less sales & thus less money to spend on creating new games. 

- People who sell fake goods don't pay taxes on what they sell. This means businesses that make genuine goods can't compete with the prices charged by people who make and sell fakes.

- Counterfeiting and piracy of trademarked and copyrighted products and services cause considerable damage to legitimate businesses.

- Sales of fake goods can also fund organised crime, eg drug dealers.

The law and counterfeit goods

- People who sell counterfeit goods can face fines of up to £5,000, or prison if they have already been convicted of selling counterfeit goods.  

- Owners of registered trademarks have certain legal rights attached to maintain exclusive rights for use of the trademark - and owners will usually actively defend these. Trademark owners can commence legal proceedings for 'trademark infringements' (unauthorised use of their trademark).

- Sellers can also face legal action even if copies are made of designs or goods that don’t have a trademark - this is called a 'passing-off' action. 

- It is illegal to buy or download 'pirated' material like songs and films. People who download pirated material can be subject to a use plan & receive warning letters from their internet service provider.

Reporting counterfeit goods

There are several steps you can take if you want to report somebody for selling fake goods:

- On ebay, follow these steps:  click 'report item' that appears in each listing then select from the menu: COUNTERFEITS AND BREACH OF COPYRIGHT / POTENTIAL TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT - then select the reason most appropriate to the item (you can report an item more than once when there is more than one reason that applies)

- Contact CONSUMER DIRECT - you don't have to provide your name. (NB: Trading Standards no longer deal with consumer advice nor have a helpline, so please do not contact them ab out counterfeit goods, as they won't intervene)

If you wish to report counterfeit medicines, contact the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.


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