A counterfeit product is not necessarily a defective product, and a defective product is not necessarily counterfeit. Nonetheless, they can easily be one and the same.
Counterfeit consumer goods are items that use someone else’s trademark without their permission. The manufacturer of a counterfeit product's motivation is in selling items that appear to be brand-name and reputable but in reality are low quality and profit from the trademark owner’s reputation.
Counterfeit products are present across all industries. Common counterfeit products include jewelry, clothing and shoes, electronics, and more, making up a multi-million dollar market share that harms consumers and businesses.
Defective products are goods that contain an issue or malfunction that deem them ineffective, unreasonably dangerous, or cause physical harm to consumers during use.
Defective products also cover a multitude of industries. Common defective products include medical devices, drugs and pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, children's toys, electronics, household appliances, and more.
Amazon itself does not sell counterfeit products, but fake products are often sold on the Amazon marketplace by third-party vendors. Most products on the Amazon marketplace are listed by third-party vendors.
An investigation by the Wall Street Journal found that Amazon is allowing the sale of thousands of fake, defective, unsafe, and mislabeled products. After originally coming to the site to dampen sales of counterfeit products, Nike pulled its products from Amazon in 2019 as it seemed to cause more confusion to consumers. Other businesses are doing the same, hoping consumers can determine the authenticity of items due to their lack of an official presence on the Amazon marketplace.
Defective products are also an issue for Amazon. The company has faced numerous claims alleging that over 70 products sold under the Amazon Basics namesake are defective and even dangerous to use . Products relating to these claims include microwaves, surge protectors, phone chargers, batteries, paper shredders, and more.
The company has even individually paid out settlements to people who received defective products.
The first step to avoiding counterfeit or defective products is knowing how to identify them. Below are things to consider when attempting to identify whether a product may be counterfeit or defective. These steps differ between whether you perceive a product to be counterfeit or defective.
If the price of a supposedly name-brand product is significantly lower on a vendor website like Amazon rather than the manufacturer’s website, that is a telltale sign that the product is likely a counterfeit reproduction. For defective products, if an item is listed at an unusually cheap price, it may not work as advertised.
If you receive a product that seems to be cheaply made or does not accurately compare to images from verified sellers, the product could be defective or counterfeit.
Packaging quality and accuracy is a good indicator to use when determining whether or not a product is real. Haphazard packaging, incorrect labeling, unauthentic serial numbers and other packaging missteps can point to a product being counterfeit or defective.
Unverified or shady payment method requests, such as a money order, are signs that a product could be counterfeit or defective. Authentic sellers will always use payment methods that protect the consumer since they trust the quality of their products.
On sites like Amazon, you are able to view the shop and ratings of third-party vendors. Doing research on who is selling a product can help determine whether or not a product is counterfeit or defective.
Unbeknown to many consumers, there are many common household products that may be defective and put the consumer at risk of injury or loss.
The following items are known to be defective and cause injury. There are active litigations built against these products for causing harm or loss to consumers:
These are just a handful of the many examples of potentially dangerous products that consumers use on a daily basis. These are not counterfeit items, but trademarked products that are putting consumers at risk. It is important that you keep up-to-date with the recalls and safety alerts of the products that you use in order to mitigate any injury resulting from them.
If you’ve unknowingly purchased a counterfeit product, be sure to keep a record of the purchase and product. Take screenshots of the webpage you found the product, keep your receipts, and report the product to relevant authorities.
If you’ve purchased a defective product, keep an electronic or physical record of the purchase. Discontinue use of the defective product immediately and attempt to return it to the seller. Research the product and seller on the internet. Consider contacting an attorney if you’ve been harmed and if there is widespread evidence of the product being dangerous.
Reporting a counterfeit or defective product helps protect yourself and other consumers from being scammed. You should first report a counterfeit or defective product to relevant authorities (police, FBI, or Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement).
After you have contacted authorities, you should also consider contacting a product liability attorney if you suffered injuries or other losses as a result of the product.
The Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement (IPE) and the FBI advocate for consumer protection. These organizations enforce laws regarding intellectual property, counterfeit goods, and the rights of people harmed by defective products.
If you purchased a counterfeit or defective product and were subsequently injured, contacting an attorney should be your next step. Counterfeit and defective dangerous pharmaceutical products.
Hiring an experienced attorney can help you navigate the ins and outs of product liability and give you the best chance at achieving justice.
Berzon, Alexandra, et al. “Amazon Has Ceded Control of Its Site. the Result: Thousands of Banned, Unsafe or Mislabeled Products.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 23 Aug. 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-has-ceded-control-of-its-site-the-result-thousands-of-banned-unsafe-or-mislabeled-products-11566564990.
Frohlich, Thomas C., et al. “9 Most Counterfeited Products in the USA.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 29 Mar. 2014, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/03/29/24-7-wall-st-counterfeited-products/7023233/.
Perez, Sarah. “Amazon Says It Will Now Compensate Consumers for Defective Products Sold on Its Marketplace.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 10 Aug. 2021, https://techcrunch.com/2021/08/10/amazon-says-it-will-now-compensate-consumers-for-defective-products-sold-on-its-marketplace/.
“What Is Counterfeiting.” International Anti Counterfeiting Coalition, 23 Sept. 2021, https://www.iacc.org/resources/about/what-is-counterfeiting.
Zimmerman, Ben. “Council Post: Why Nike Cut Ties with Amazon and What It Means for Other Retailers.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 22 Jan. 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2020/01/22/why-nike-cut-ties-with-amazon-and-what-it-means-for-other-retailers/?sh=1ab41b9c64ff.
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