Are you buying fake products this festive season?

New Delhi: Does sale and deals on online shopping portals attract you, beware! Chances are high that these products are counterfeited. Noida resident Renu Varun had a harrowing experience when she bought her favourite cosmetic from one of the leading online shopping websites. She booked expensive lipsticks of an international brand at a surprisingly cheap price but later discovered it was fake.

The reach of fake products is so much that it even reaches to listing on top shopping websites. “I saw Bobbi Brown lipsticks being sold at discounted rate on Snapdeal. As it is a trusted website, I sensed no foul play and thought it was actually a part of deal. But, my struggle with Snapdeal started as soon the product was delivered to me. The product had genuine branding but details on the lipstick didn’t match to one I ordered. I have used Bobbi Brown products for years and I immediately identified it to be fake,” Renu told DB Post.

Ranu explains that Snapdeal instead of addressing the issue of fake products being sold from their platform only insisted on refund. “As I raised my concern without my consent Snapdeal sent their delivery boy to pick the product and offered me refund. Returning money to the customers is the most basic thing that every company should do. But, what about consumer’s protection, thousands of customers must have already bought the ‘toxic’ product, which they might be using on daily basis,” Renu said.

Renu made several attempts to reach the company management but only landed up listening to automated voice. She also wrote to Bobbi Brown, which, in an email reply said, “I can confirm that is not one of our accounts and we, therefore, have no control over the merchandise that they sell, further to this we have no way of knowing how they obtained our products or if they are genuine.”

However, in a reply to queries raised by DB Post, Snapdeal spokesperson said that it is a marketplace where independent third-party sellers list and sell their products directly to the buyers. “Snapdeal has zero tolerance towards the sale of any non-genuine products on its platform. Strict action is taken against sellers indulging in any malpractice, which may include, suspension of the seller from the marketplace,” the company spokesperson said.

However, legal experts said that all online platforms should ensure the quality of product being sold by them. They are equally responsible for products sold by third-party sellers. It is their duty to check that products sold through them are genuine and not illegal.

Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have become a hub of bogus profiles peddling counterfeit luxury items. Thousands of active accounts on the photo-sharing site as well as Facebook were found selling replica products and many are duping shoppers. Many have created portals to sell these fake products.

Such accounts and portals copy images from original websites and even do photo shoots with Indian models to promote their goods.

None of these platforms mention any address and communicate only through WhatsApp and accept payment via digital wallets. Many gullible shoppers have been duped by such pages – which get shut after taking orders in bulk.

Most popular categories are sports shoes, watches, sunglasses, designer wear, gadgets and bags of famous brands. Watch, perfume and cosmetics’ manufacturers are affected too.

The list of violations is not confined to counterfeiting as many sellers use trademarks improperly or pretend to be official accounts of brands. Such imitation items were earlier sold in the byways of Nehru Place, Palika Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Karol Bagh and Lajpat Nagar. But peddlers have now found safer refuge on social media sites as well as a brand new customer base.

Experts say that a large share of the replica products comes from South Asian countries, with China being a major contributor. Traders book piles of these products and sell them as genuine goods, bruising big brands.

The counterfeit market directly affects luxury companies, resulting in profit dip and damaged brand value. Sale of fakes not only means lost sales for genuine firms through purchase of the bogus items, but also losses based on the idea that a product is no longer exclusive. Observers say sellers of fake goods are using new tricks to mislead buyers.