Copyright 2017. American In Macau. All Rights Reserved. 

By Ashley Sutherland-Winch

Published December 1, 2016 in Macau Business Daily

Internet shopping platforms are being plagued by counterfeit goods. To consumers who trust platforms like Taobao, Ebay and Amazon, the fear of purchasing faux goods is of concern; but to the brands being counterfeited, especially the smaller companies, it can be financially devastating.

Amazon is beginning a massive crackdown on counterfeit goods in 2017. ‘Amazon has zero tolerance for the sale of counterfeit items on our site,’ the company said in a statement to Bloomberg. Alibaba Group Holding’s platform, frequently criticised for being a hotbed of fake branded products, released a statement in May that sellers of luxury items must now prove product authenticity or face being shut down.

Amazon, Ebay and Alibaba are largely shielded from legal liability as long as they have processes in place for brands to report fake goods and take timely action to suspend their sale once notified. Manufacturers, however, are growing increasingly frustrated with their products being counterfeited and some have joined with Amazon to take formal legal action in United States courts. Amazon is now desperate to bring order to an atmosphere where more than two million independent seller entities compete for the attention and purchases of shoppers around the globe.

Xu Chunming, deputy head of Shanghai University’s Intellectual Property Institute, said Alibaba faces a long fight in combating counterfeits. “Generally speaking, Chinese citizens and companies have yet to improve their awareness in respecting and protecting intellectual property . . . and technically there’s a difficulty for Alibaba in stopping the sale of fake goods as it serves as a platform for sellers rather than as a manufacturer or seller,” he said.

I believe that the Chinese are not alone in potentially not respecting and protecting intellectual property; it’s a worldwide epidemic. Inherently, I believe that consumers are constantly searching for less expensive products and deals without regard to brand. The counterfeit product industry also opens the door to access. Because many people cannot afford some luxury brands, the opportunity to purchase counterfeits can be overwhelming and exciting but not inherently respectful to the brand itself.  On the other hand, counterfeiters do such a good job mimicking some lower end products that some consumers cannot tell the difference and believe they are indeed purchasing a true brand product.

At the end of the day, consumers must become more savvy and online marketplaces will need to continue to improve their processes to validate products to finally make advances in the crackdown on counterfeit goods.