Watch out for counterfeit products

They can be cheap, stylish and look genuine. Shopping, whether online or on holiday, can result in you buying counterfeit items. Why is that a problem? Should you really have to pay extra for a small brand mark on the bag or shoe you desire? 

There are several problems associated with buying counterfeit products. In a worst-case scenario, you will have a product that is not safe and ends up harming you or someone else. For instance, some products may contain hazardous chemicals. In addition, there is an economic impact on society with counterfeit products.

Another thing you should keep in mind when buying a counterfeit product is how the item was manufactured. This can play a large role on impact with the environment, people, animals, and the environment both near you and globally.

In addition, quite often counterfeit products do not comply with the safety requirements that protects us in the EU. This may be due to that they contain certain substances that are hazardous to human health or the environment, or do not comply with other safety requirements.

Shopping online

When shopping online, it is difficult to inspect a product in detail, however there are some things you can do to try to verify the authenticity of an item.

Tips for revealing counterfeit products online

  • Check the seller’s identity. Always check to ensure that the contact information on the website is correct and that you can make a complaint if you encounter any problems.
  • Read reviews from other customers. Use a search engine on the Internet to see what other consumers are writing about the company. Read the comments with a critical eye.
  • Check to see if the website has been issued a website security certificate and safety mark. A safety mark certifies that the website complies with the quality requirements of the mark and promises a secure online shopping experience. Click on the mark to verify that it is genuine.
  • Make your own evaluation of whether the website looks professional. Most of the websites that sell counterfeit products often contain misspellings, grammatical errors, and the images are of poor quality. Are the images low quality or do they look a bit strange? This can be a sign that the website is selling pirated products that are really a copy of the original.
  • Look on the website for an explanation of your consumer rights. Online retailers are required to provide customers with clear and accurate information about their rights as a consumer.
  • Investigate the price of the product. Pirated products are often sold at a significantly lower price than stated in the official reseller’s online shop. “If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is” is a principle you should keep in mind when shopping.
  • Check out authorised dealers on their official websites. Most webshops have lists posted showing which webshops are approved or blacklisted. Ordering products from approved retailers ensures that the product you are buying is genuine.
  • Pay with a secure payment method. When paying, always make sure that the website has a security certificate, and pay after receiving the products with an invoice, or pay with a credit card – avoid direct money transfers. Always save the receipt and order confirmation.
  • Is the product refurbished? Does it contain genuine parts? Have a closer look if possible. This makes a significant difference for your warranty and what to expect from such a product.

Shopping while on holiday

If you buy branded products while on holiday, either abroad or in your own strictcountry, it is important that you try to verify the authenticity of the product. And keep in mind – as general rule, counterfeit products are illegal.

A counterfeit copy is usually cheap but can end up costing you a lot more in the long run. In many countries, the laws against counterfeit products are harsh. In some countries, you may be required to pay a fine for purchasing a counterfeit item. In some European countries, you can be fined up to 10,000 euro, not only if you purchase a counterfeit product, but also if you bring it in to the country. The rules and laws governing counterfeit products vary within the EU.

Counterfeit products may be difficult to recognise, but the products are often of poor quality and lack safety guarantees.

How to recognise counterfeit products upon inspection

  • Examine the materials and details. Counterfeit products are often of inferior quality, often much poorer than the original. Look carefully at the seams and labels, on a counterfeit product, they are often flawed and carelessly made. Check to see if the brand name is spelled correctly and that no details in the logo are missing. Read the labels and the laundry instruction; text in counterfeit products are often misspelled.
  • Check the lining and pockets. The inside should be made with the same care as the outside. Counterfeiters usually work from photographs, and often lack a good picture of the inside of the item.
  • Check the packaging. Check to see if it has the same trademark or brand name on the packaging as on the purchased item. Very rarely are expensive fashion products sold with plastic packaging.
  • Check where the product was manufactured. Counterfeit beauty products and perfumes can cause severe allergic reactions. Ask the distributor for the brand to track if the product was manufactured in the original factory; this can be done via the product’s manufacturing number on the packaging.
  • Look at the price. Compare what the product costs in a genuine brand shop. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Ask for a receipt. Keep in mind that goods sold by private individuals can also be counterfeit. Ask where the product was purchased and ask for receipts and any warranties.
  • Do not buy well-known branded products that are sold on the beach, on the street or town squares. In the end, what can first seem to be a bargain can cost significantly more than expected. The counterfeit product can be more expensive than the genuine product if you are forced to pay heavy fines.

No guarantee of product safety

As a consumer, you have no assurance of what the counterfeit product you buy actually contains. Many counterfeit products do not comply with applicable safety requirements and can be immediately dangerous, referring here to products such as pharmaceutical medicine, children’s toys, or beauty products and perfumes.

Toys that break easily can be very dangerous for children. Counterfeited toys rarely comply with the safety requirements that have been established. If the toys easily break or lose small parts, they can be fatal for children.  

Cosmetics and skin-care products can contain as many as 60-70 ingredients and require advanced technology to be properly produced. Perfumes are much easier to copy with a smaller number of ingredients than in colour cosmetics and skin-care products. Even if the scent of the counterfeit copy seems very similar to the genuine product, a fake perfume risks giving you severe allergic reactions.