Fake merchandise, apps lure Singles Day shoppers

opinion November 26, 2018 01:00

By Suwatchai Songwanich
CEO Bangkok Bank (China)

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Despite efforts to curb sales of counterfeit goods during China’s massive “Singles Day” online annual sales event, shoppers could still find plenty of merchandise that mimicked well-known brands – at a fraction of the price they would pay for the real thing. 



“Jack David” bourbon, “Abadis” sneakers, and “Caiwen Klein” underwear were just a few of the fake brands on offer during the 24-hour event which saw Alibaba smash through previous records, achieving gross merchandise value (GMV) sales of more than US$30.8 billion (Bt1 trillion) – topping the US$25.3 billion record set in 2017. 

Intellectual property theft in China has long been an issue for US and European companies and is a major point of contention in the US-China trade war. The European Union’s Intellectual Property Office estimates that counterfeiting costs 434,000 jobs in Europe and 60 billion euros (Bt2.2 trillion) annually.

China has renewed its pledge to address the problem. A law that comes into force in January aims to foil those peddling fakes by punishing e-commerce sites if counterfeit goods are sold on their sites.

Meanwhile, another form of counterfeiting is creating additional challenges. Fake versions of popular online stores including Taobao, Pinduoduo, and JD have become common across China. 

Chinese online security company 360 Security Brain found that during the month leading up to Singles Day, close to 4,000 fake shopping apps were downloaded on more than 300,000 mobile devices in China. 

As the name implies, counterfeit shopping apps impersonate well-known software. They either have the same interface as the original app or use the same name. Their origin is usually unknown, but they present a danger much the same as phishing websites. They can steal account passwords and bank information, spread viruses or simply cheat users out of their money.

Thailand is clamping down on black market branded goods with its “Stop Fake Goods” campaign aimed at tourists, which started at the end of last year. 

In January this year Thailand’s government introduced draft legislation updating the country’s anti-counterfeiting laws by allowing authorities and IP owners to take faster action against those infringing intellectual property rights. The government’s campaign has also included a series of raids on key markets and shopping centres which had been identified by US trade representatives as locations promoting the sale of fake merchandise.

Thailand was taken off the US government’s priority watch list in respect of intellectual property infringement and counterfeiting in 2017 but is still on a lower tier list. The problem remains a difficult one and solving it will need continued effort to reinforce the message that fake brands or goods are no longer acceptable.

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