Amazon is complicit with counterfeiting (updated)

Amazon is complicit with counterfeiting (updated)

When someone goes to the lengths of making counterfeits of your products, it's at least a sign you're doing something right. And it deserves a minute of flattery.

But when Chinese counterfeiters tool up and make copies of your product, send that inventory to Amazon, then overtake the real product's buy box by auto-lowering the price - it's a real problem. Customers are unknowingly buying crap versions of the product, while both Amazon and the scammers are profiting, and the reputation you've built goes down the toilet.

And if you've paid Amazon a boat load of money to advertise the product you've designed, built, invested in, and shipped - it's further insult to injury. And when new counterfeit sellers keep popping up every week so you have to play whack-a-mole with Amazon, who takes days to remove the sellers, it's the beginning of the end for your small business.

This is exactly what has happened to us. Our popular product The Anchor, the first under desk headphone mount, with 1500+ reviews, has been getting flooded with counterfeits. The current counterfeit seller, suiningdonghanjiaju Co Ltd (sounds legit), has been on there for the past 5 days and taken all the sales.

 

They literally reverse engineered it, made steel compression molds, made the logo wrong, used fake 3M adhesive that's very thin and was diecut smaller than the top (measure once, cut twice), they use a lower durometer silicone so it flexes more, its has huge mold parting lines, and the packaging is literally photocopied then reprinted (you can tell by the lack of image contrast). And they had to apply a big sticker to cover our SKU with theirs. But to the untrained eye, it would pass. Can't wait for the negative reviews to come...

I can't blame the Chinese counterfeiters for doing it. They are getting paid, they remain anonymous, they know they will face no legal recourse, and the worst that could happen to them is to have their listing removed and counterfeit inventory returned (not destroyed). Amazon's policies promote this.

There is something extremely simple Amazon could do about it. If you have a registered brand in the Brand Registry and don't sell the product wholesale - there could be one box to check for that. And anyone else would have to get approval or high vetting to sell the product, especially if they are sending large quantities to FBA. I imagine there are some algorithmic solutions that could catch most of it too. And it wouldn't hurt to increase the size of the Brand Registry team so they can do their work faster. Keeping sellers 100% anonymous obviously perpetuates it too, just post their business registration you have on file.

Why Amazon doesn't do this is mind-blowing and makes them complicit in the rampant counterfeiting on their platform. We are definitely not the first seller for this to happen to. And it lowers Amazon customers trust in the platform when they unknowingly receive knockoffs. And the real sellers also have to police this themselves, Amazon isn't active in going after them - and Amazon can hide behind the fact that independent sellers are doing the counterfeiting (though most people, like my Mom, wouldn't read the fineprint of who it's technically "sold by" - they are just buying from Amazon when they buy something on Amazon). 

Amazon could also set the bar a little higher for Chinese sellers trying to sell existing products. Because 9/10 times I'd bet they are ripping off an established brand - the margin math wouldn't work and I've never heard of any brand selling to a Chinese seller to then sell on Amazon USA.

For the record, I love Amazon as a customer, I buy way too much stuff with Prime, I'm a long shareholder, and think they are on track to become the biggest company in the world (unless they get broken up for anti-trust reasons). But if you buy anything on Amazon, take a minute to look at the seller. Better yet, buy products direct so you can be assured you are not getting a fake. 

And Jeff Bezos, if you're reading this, come on - this is day 2 activity.

-Casey Hopkins
Founder, Elevation Lab
casey at elevationlab.com

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Update #1: Wow, thank you for the flood of responses and making this get noticed. Thank you Daring FireballEngadget, C|net, TechCrunch, HypeBeast, Buzzfeed, Fortune, LoopInsight, the Oregonian, and more for writing about it. Amazon just took down the counterfeit sellers after 5 days of owning the listing (like they've done multiple times before in the past month), fingers crossed another one won't pop up again next week. 

Update # 2: Happy Friday, take 20% off any ElevationLab product this week with TRUST at checkout. 

Update #3: Came to our attention - Amazon doesn't let 3rd party sellers sell AmazonBasics products. That's convenient to play by a different set of rules.

Update #4: This is on the front page of Reddit with 1000+ comments - WOW.

Update #5: And they're back! Just 3 days after the last Chinese counterfeiter was removed, Amazon let another one take their place! Insanity...

Update #6: And... the second counterfeit seller was taken down after 2 days.

Update #7: And we are out of inventory - we'll have it back available next week.

 

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