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Fake products bug online buyers

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The growth in online stores is accompanied by an increase in the number of counterfeit items.

Like many e-commerce customers, when Maya saw a one-third discount on a printer cartridge on a website, she leapt at the opportunity.

A few weeks later, the cartridge malfunctioned. But when the Chartered Accountant went to the service centre to ask for a replacement, she was told that the cartridge was fake.

This is not a one-off case. With the number of third-party sellers – who are independent sellers – blossoming on e-commerce sites, such as Flipkart and Amazon, the number of counterfeit items has also increased.

Akhil R. said, “Recently, I purchased a branded perfume, which was being offered at a 25 per cent discount. When it did arrive, I discovered that it was fake and even had a different smell.”

Suspecting his malfunctioning powerbank bought in June is fake, a customer from Mangaluru started a petition demanding action against the independent seller. Complaints such as this can be seen on numerous forums online.

In another case, a city-based customer found that the Bluetooth wireless speaker he had ordered had not been manufactured by the company whose label was pasted on the device. The customer filed a complaint with Upparpet Police Station and was immediately reimbursed.

Maya too was immediately compensated for the counterfeit cartridge when she produced a document from the original manufacturer certifying the fake product. “My confidence in online shopping has diminished since there is no background check on suppliers,” she said.

Praveen, an avid online shopper, says, “The feedback system (ratings and comments on a product) is not enough. It isn’t accurate enough to ensure more buyers do not end up with fake products.”

When contacted, a spokesperson of Amazon India, said, “We take the issue of fake and counterfeit products being sold on our marketplace by sellers very seriously. Sellers sign an undertaking to sell only genuine and original products.” For the first offence, the product is taken down while for repeat offenders, the sellers will be delisted, said the spokesperson.

Similarly, e-commerce website Flipkart, said, “Sellers found violating guidelines are blacklisted from our platform… we have a strict seller review/rating process in place along with on-ground teams carrying out quality checks. We also have mystery shoppers who are constantly monitoring sellers.”

‘Both website and retailer are accountable’

Advocate and cyber crime expert Pavan Duggal said Section 79 of the Information Technology Act pegs the responsibility of weeding out counterfeiting articles on the intermediary, which is the e-commerce website and third party sellers.

“It is up to the website to carry out due diligence while allowing third party sellers to sell their items on their platform,” he said.

He believes that the low number of e-commerce counterfeiting cases registered is due to “lack of proof”, and that customers prefer fake articles due to the discounted prices.

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Printable version | May 22, 2018 1:26:51 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/fake-products-bug-online-buyers/article7496392.ece