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The high price of a cheap handbag

Article by Natalie Slabbert, Candidate Attorney at Spoor & Fisher

In the age of technology, where terrorist organisations have social media pages and tweet regularly, the ingenuity of counterfeiters has meant that where five years ago, “Fucci” or “Roach” handbags were only available in the alleys of Hillbrow, fake goods can now be purchased online – sometimes completely unintentionally.

Online stores and marketplaces state in their policies that they do not allow counterfeit items or unauthorized material to be sold through their platforms, but authenticity cards, tags and labels can be faked. As the public believes that these online stores only sell genuine products, it becomes more difficult to spot the fakes. Counterfeiters use search engine optimisation and search engine ads to direct your attention to their fake websites, often using images from legitimate websites to deceive consumers.

So while you may not be probing the internet for fake goods, many people are fooled into buying counterfeit goods in the belief that these goods are genuine. So how do you spot a fake online? The problem with shopping online is that you do not get a chance to handle the object before making the purchase so you have to employ more creative strategies to spot counterfeits. Here are some guidelines:

Look at the price

You know that designer labels usually do not sell handbags for R250. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Look at the location

Most counterfeits originate from Asia. Look at the contact information on the website: if the phone number does not work or if there is no business address or if Google Maps reveals that the location of the “head office” is in the wilderness of Outer Mongolia, chances are the goods are not genuine.

A great tool to use is http://whois.domaintools.com/. If you copy and paste the web address into the search function on this site, it will show you where the domain is registered. If the address is left out or the domain is in a country known for the manufacture of dubious goods, regard this website with suspicion.

Look for grammatical and spelling errors and overused words

Your favourite designer label does not need to assure you that their products are “real”, “authentic” or “genuine”. If a website or social media platform continually assures you that a certain scarf is the “genuine” product, chances are it is not.

Research business reputations

The best way to avoid being fooled into buying fake fashion is to purchase luxury goods through reputable businesses.  Search online for the company name and the word “reviews”.

Pay attention to the brands you buy

If you know that your favourite designer label does not have a range of make-up, and suddenly you discover eye shadow with their trade mark on it, this does not mean that it was made by them. Go onto the manufacturer’s website, compare the goods and compare the prices.

While it may seem harmless to purchase a handbag or scarf or pair of jeans for a fraction of the price, trade in counterfeit goods accounts for 7% of total world trade – that’s $600 billion annually. In South Africa alone, billions of rand in revenue has been lost due to the trade in counterfeit goods. Counterfeiting often represents an easy revenue stream for organised crime which can yield profits of up to 900%. The purchase of a cheap handbag may even be potentially funding a terrorist organisation. With the rise of the availability of counterfeit goods online, these numbers are likely to increase. It is important for consumers to be aware and to guard against this trend.

Spoor & Fisher is a proud Partner of the NSBC.