HOUSTON – Consumer expert Amy Davis exposed a local business selling counterfeit laptop chargers on eBay, but scammers are making fakes of everything from makeup to home products.
It can happen to anybody. A lot of people shop on Amazon because of the convenience. Even if the price of a product is the same as what you would pay in a store, you don't have to leave your house and you can get it delivered in two days. Davis purchases so many As Seen on TV products for her weekly testing segments, she sometimes orders them on Amazon. Last October, after she aired a test of Flex Tape that failed, she got an email from the manufacturer. They claimed she received fake counterfeit Flex Tape. The company offered to send Davis some genuine Flex Tape so she could try the test again.
The product she purchased on Amazon looked legitimate, but when it is placed next to the real product, there are obvious differences.
"This product that we got off of Amazon has no markings on the inside," Davis explained, showing the inner part of the tape. "And now that we got the legitimate stuff from the company you can see that it's all labeled and has their logo inside."
More importantly, the authentic Flex Tape passed the tests to stop a leak that the Amazon Flex Tape failed.
"We are seeing a significant amount of counterfeit goods that are reaching consumers via e-commerce," said Kimberly Gianopulos, the lead investigator for the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO purchased 47 items on sites like Amazon and eBay. Twenty of them were fake, and 13 makeup products they purchased were counterfeit.
"I'm convinced that it's not the same as the real product," KPRC 2 anchor Rachel McNeill said after ordering Peter Thomas Roth serum for $39 on Amazon.
"I was like 'Amazon's quick! I'll have it in my two days, which you know I love," McNeill said.
What she didn't love was the product she received. Next to a bottle of the serum we bought at Sephora, you can't tell the difference, but when McNeill puts the fake product on her skin she said she was convinced it was not the real thing.
"It's just so sticky," she said.
Davis sent both products to ProQuality Lab for a comparative analysis. The profiles of each product look nothing alike, proving McNeill serum is fake.
We were also curious about the authenticity of AP24 Whitening Toothpaste on Amazon. When we did a story on the product in 2017, licensed distributors of the toothpaste said if consumers purchased the tubes anywhere except for a licensed distributor, they were likely getting a counterfeit product that would not whiten their teeth like the real thing. Davis purchased one tube for $20 from a licensed distributor. On Amazon, she bought two tubes for $22. She sent them both to ProQuality Lab for analysis. The results of the two tubes came back very similar, leading the tester to believe the product is the same.
When we reported our findings to Amazon, it removed both the seller of the fake Flex Tape and the fake serum from its site. If you discover that a product you ordered is counterfeit, Amazon will refund your money.
You are most at risk when you buy products from third-party sellers. Your best bet is to buy items that are fulfilled by and shipped directly from Amazon.
Here is the difference:
5 Ways to verify you are getting legitimate product on Amazon
1. When possible, buy products that are fulfilled and shipped by Amazon.
2. If you are buying a product that is sold by a third party seller, check their reviews on & off of Amazon or eBay.
- Google the name of the company.
- Look for the company's website.
- Is there a physical address listed?
- Call the customer service number listed for the company on its website.
- Are they easy to reach?
3. Look to see what other products the seller has listed.
- Is the seller the manufacturer of the product?
- Are they similar or a hodge podge of items?
- Can you tell the nature of the business by the items they have listed for sale: electronics company, beauty products retailer, etc.?
4. If you suspect a product you purchased is not authentic, report it to Amazon or eBay.
- They will refund your money and investigate your claims.
- This helps the e-tailers ferret out counterfeiters and product other consumers.
5. You should also report counterfeit items.
Amazon sent a statement in response to our story:
Our customers trust that when they make a purchase through Amazon’s store-either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers-they will receive authentic products, and we take any claims that endanger that trust seriously. We strictly prohibit the sale of counterfeit products and invest heavily-both funds and company energy-to ensure our policy against the sale of such products is followed. Our global team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to and take action on reported violations and notices of potential infringement.
In order to detect bad actors and potentially counterfeit products, we make significant investments in machine learning and automated systems. We employ dedicated teams of software engineers, research scientists, program managers, and investigators to operate and continually refine our anti-counterfeiting program. When a business registers to sell products through Amazon’s Marketplace, Amazon’s systems scan information for signals that the business might be a bad actor, and Amazon blocks identified bad actors before they can offer any products for sale. Amazon’s systems also automatically and continuously scan numerous data points related to sellers, products, brands, and offers to detect activity that indicates products offered might be counterfeit. Over 99.9% of all Amazon page views by our customers landed on pages that did not receive a notice of potential infringement.
We also work closely with vendors, sellers, and rights owners to strengthen protections for their brands on Amazon. Any rights owner can enroll in Amazon’s Brand Registry to manage and protect their brand and intellectual property rights on our store. More than 40,000 brands are enrolled in Brand Registry and are using our free service to better protect their brand and control product information displayed on Amazon-this means brands can ensure their information is accurate and customers can make confident, informed purchasing decisions on Amazon.
We encourage rights owners who have product authenticity concerns to notify us; we investigate all claims thoroughly. We remove suspected counterfeit items as we become aware of them, and we permanently remove bad actors from selling on Amazon. Amazon investigated and took action on 95% of all notices of potential infringement received from Brand Registry within eight hours. With our proactive innovations that learn from the information in Brand Registry, brands in Brand Registry on average are finding and reporting 99% fewer suspected infringements than before the launch of Brand Registry. We have also successfully taken legal action against bad actors and will continue to pursue litigation and work with law enforcement where appropriate.
Customers are always protected by our A-to-Z Guarantee, whether they make a purchase from Amazon or a third-party seller. If the product doesn't arrive or isn’t as advertised, customers can contact our customer support for a full refund of their order.
Customers trust that they will receive authentic goods when they shop on Amazon and anything that diminishes that trust is unacceptable. Counterfeit is an age-old problem, but one that we will continue to fight and innovate on to protect customers, brands, and sellers.