fake goods

Incopro, an online brand protection solution firm, teamed with Sapio Research to find out how many shoppers were either conned into buying fake goods online or might be intentionally seeking counterfeit items.

The poll showed that 26 percent of respondents “have been fooled into buying fake goods over the past 12 months.” Authors of the report also found that 32 percent of U.S. consumers said they “definitely” and/or “maybe” made online purchases of fake apparel, jewelry or leather goods while 22 percent of respondents “knowingly purchased a counterfeit item.”

Still, the report found that many consumers want online marketplaces to quell the sale of fakes, which shoppers also acknowledged has a negative impact on a brand.

[Related story: Counterfeits, Knockoffs, Replicas: Parsing the Legal Implications]

The research was based on a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, and was conducted this past October. The goal was “to understand how consumers are influenced online, and whether they know — or care — that they are being tricked,” Incopro said in a statement adding that the report “sheds a light on consumer habits in researching and purchasing products on the Internet as well as what drives consumers to buy counterfeit goods, both unwillingly and by choice.”

Piers Barclay, chief strategy officer at Incopro, said as holiday shopping peaks, the risks “of counterfeit activity are amplified as online shoppers seek out deals this holiday season.”

“Our research shows that some consumers are regularly being tricked into buying counterfeit goods while others are making the conscious decision to purchase fake products, which can be unsafe and/or contribute to funding criminal networks,” Barclay said. “Consumer education and leadership on this matter is needed from public influencers, including online marketplaces, policymakers, brands and search engines, to avoid a deeper plunge into the abyss of the black market.”

The survey found that the median amount of money spent on fake goods was $69 per person. And 27 percent of respondents said they never received “a refund from an online marketplace despite reporting a seller of counterfeit goods.” More than half of respondents said they “lost trust in a brand after unintentionally purchasing counterfeit products online.”

In regard to online sites that are most trusted for buying genuine goods, sears.com was tops while ebay.com and wish.com were the least trusted. “When asked which fakes pose the biggest threat to society online, 34 percent said fake pharmaceuticals,” authors of the report said.

The poll also found that 18 percent of consumers “don’t care that a trade war with China would mean more counterfeit goods becoming available online” while 15 percent of respondents “actually see more fake goods being available as a good thing.”

Incopro said in a statement that fakes and counterfeits have garnered a lot of headlines in recent months, “ranging from calls from President Trump to address the counterfeit goods problem, to senators writing letters to Amazon to remove illegal, deadly and deceptive products sold on the platform.”

The company noted that last month the Senate Finance Committee published a bipartisan report, titled “The Fight Against Fakes: How Statutory and Regulatory Barriers Prevent The Sharing of Information on Counterfeits,” “which underscores the challenges rights holders have in enforcing their intellectual property online and many of the health and safety risks of counterfeits sold online.”

The Senate Finance Committee said in the 245-page report that e-commerce platforms “have no duty to police counterfeit listings or proactively remove suspected counterfeits from their platform.”

“This means that right holders must take responsibility for their own [intellectual property rights] enforcement,” the report stated. “In order to protect their brand online, right holders may need to monitor up to hundreds of listings over multiple e-commerce platforms to prevent the sale of counterfeits. The breadth and variety of counterfeits sold online may make this task extremely difficult. E-commerce platforms can do more to help these entities police and enforce their [intellectual property rights] — especially for [small to medium-size business]s who otherwise do not have the resources to protect their brand online.”

Incopro said in its survey “almost a third of the respondents [31 percent] want the U.S. government to do more to stop the sale of counterfeit goods online.”