Online fakes put to the test

CHOICE has investigated the booming global trade in counterfeit products which is estimated to generate AU$272 billion annually as consumers fall for dodgy designer knock-offs and sophisticated copies.

Last year the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service seized more than 700,000 counterfeit products with a total estimated value of AU$48.5million (based on equivalent value of genuine goods).

“Gone are the days when knock-offs were easy to spot with their misspelt logos and shoddy craftsmanship. Today’s fakes almost mirror the real thing and are often supported by big online marketing budgets,” says Head of Media at CHOICE,
Tom Godfrey.

“To boost their credibility, some counterfeiters lure consumers to their sites with paid online advertising and images from a brand’s most recent advertising campaign.”

“Counterfeiters also fake tags, receipts and authenticity cards making it even more challenging for consumers to work out the real deal.”

“Globally, counterfeit products are thought to make up about 2 per cent of
world trade.”

“While a dodgy handbag won’t kill you, there are plenty of counterfeit products that may pose a significant risk to your health and safety. Pharmaceuticals and cosmetics sold overseas online are unregulated with no requirement for them to be produced in sanitary conditions.

“If you’re lucky, counterfeit perfume will only stain your clothes, but it may cause skin allergies, burns and trigger respiratory problems.”

“Fake electronics can contain inferior components that can be a danger with bad wiring causing overheating.”

“Dodgy sporting equipment can also be dangerous with heads flying off dodgy golf clubs and tennis rackets containing lead paint.

Shadow shop

“To better understand the potential consumer pitfalls of shopping online we surfed the internet with a view to purchasing the same pair of shoes from two different online retailers.”

“We purchased one pair from and the other from Both online stores carried the company’s brand and appeared at face value to be authorised retailers.”

“We found what appeared to be the same pair of shoes on both sites and paid $160.00 for the shoes from and $87.42 from One pair arrived in 2 days, the other after 7 days. We then deconstructed the shoes to try to determine the difference.”

The results are not as obvious as you may have thought.