First there was the Internet. Then eBay. Then Facebook. Now apps are giving international companies and trading standards officers a run for their money by helping traders in counterfeit goods hawk their wares.
This is how it works. The app owner allows customers to download an app for free from Apple. As soon as the customer registers, they can start selling new or used goods by simply taking a photo of the item. The items link to other social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter allowing the user to directly market to friends and acquaintances via established networks. Users can also sell the item to hundreds and thousands of people already using the app. This method of selling is fast, easy and creating problems for brands, and trade bodies such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), are working closely with companies and trading standards to stop the sale of counterfeit goods.
‘There are a couple of frustrations,’ said Graham Mogg, intelligence coordinator at the ACG. ‘The sites are very easy to join and it’s very easy to set up a trader account without divulging your true identity. Some companies running these apps often hide behind flimsy policies that say they won’t tolerate the sale of counterfeit goods and will remove products if a rights holder contacts them, but they do not police their own site and remove items that are obviously fake.’
And — most importantly — unlike selling counterfeits from the back of a boot, the app owners give people around the world immediate access to counterfeit goods.
‘The products are sold globally,’ Mogg said. ‘This gives counterfeiters a massive market. There are a lot of legitimate products on these apps too so there’s no reason for consumers to believe that they’re buying counterfeit goods especially when the cost is attractive and people think they’re getting a bargain.’
This type of trading activity came to ACG’s attention via social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook 18 months ago. Mogg acknowledges that most of the companies will remove the counterfeit goods that are for sale once they’ve been spotted. ‘Unfortunately, when it comes to identifying counterfeits they are reactive rather than proactive, often arguing that they don’t have the capacity to monitor counterfeit goods proactively.’
‘We would like them to work with our members to establish better reporting and identification methods,’ Mogg said. ‘For example, it could link to Brand-i which is supported by ACG members and other brands, letting users look up the genuine source of the product. It seems like it would be quite easy for them to establish but they don’t seem motivated at the moment to engage in proactive work.’
Brand-i is a TSI-run site that allows consumers to see check reputable suppliers of name brand items. For more information on Brand-i, click here