While the business of online shopping sites zooming up so are the complaints about fake or duplicate products being sold on these platforms. Pritee Shah from Ahmedabad-based Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) has even started an online petition requesting Amazon and all other e-portals to stop selling fake products and have a product recall policy.
An online petition filed by the consumer activist has this to say: A customer purchased Lakme Eyeconic Kajal Pack of two, from the Amazon portal in March 2017. “The product was found to be fake as was admitted by the manufacturer Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL). Sublime, a seller on Amazon also admitted that the product it has sold/ sent is fake. A total of 340 customers purchased Lakme Eyeconic Kajal from Amazon seller Sublime. Amazon has refunded money to only seven customers, who complained. The Lakme Eyeconic Kajal bought from Amazon seller Sublime by these 340 customers could be fake. It could contain ingredients hazardous to your health. Are you okay with that? Obviously not. So, take action, join us in an effort to protect your Consumer Rights,” the petition says.
The Internet is being widely used these days for online shopping. But it is like watching a movie where everything you see on screen is not always as it might seem. From a girl whose motto is ‘Netflix and chill’ all day to the grandfather who is unable to walk, this no pollution platform suits ones daily needs at any hour of the day. Many online sellers take advantage of this by employing a range of online tricks and fake promises to lure people to conduct fraudulent transactions, present fraudulent solicitations to prospective victims or to transmit the proceeds of fraud to financial institutions or to others connected with the scheme. Millennial’s are often considered tech-savvy and Internet-literate. We assume we know all the ins and outs of the digital world. And yet, plenty of us fall for the simplest of online scams.
Online frauds are radically different from ones typically used by brick-and-mortar businesses. Here is a checklist to help you avoid losses in a situation where you cannot see the other party to the deal and identifying authentic sellers is all important.
(a) Consumers must check the URL of the seller. Scamsters are adept at producing counterfeit websites with a minute change in the web address to make it seem very similar to the original website. An online consumer was duped while shopping at nikebetterwold.com with the ‘r’ missing from ‘world’ as used in nikebetterworld.com. It led to him getting a fake product.
(b) Understand difference between a domain name and URL. For Instance, http://en.wikipedia.org/ is a URL whereas ‘Wikipedia.org’ the domain name. Frauds occur when people do not understand the difference. There is a message spreading on WhatsApp that offers Redmi Note 4 mobile for just Rs499 with a link http://amazon.note4-499rs-sale.in. In this link, the domain is ‘note4-499rs-sale.in’ and not ‘amazon.com’ or ‘amazon.in’. Most buyers fail to notice or understand the difference and fall prey to spams or spurious sales. This domain has nothing to do with Amazon. In fact, note4-499rs-sale.in is registered by one Rahul Kumar from Delhi.
(c) International or local brands, which partner with online shopping sites to sell their products should have a scrutiny system to verify that only the partnered sites are selling their products and not anyone else. For instance, Gurgaon-based Shopclues, which claims to be the one of the country’s fastest growing e-commerce companies, was taken to court for selling fakes of L’Oréal, Tommy Hilfiger, Skullcandy and Ray-Ban products.
(d) Try purchasing from sites (e.g. Jabong) which have a one product one-brand policy. These sites have gone through the pains of getting quotations of the same product from many official distributors and then selected the best bargain to be sold by them. Sites, which give a chance to multiple sellers to sell the same product on the same platform, can attract cunning sellers who cheat consumers to earn quick money.
(e) One should shop wisely and not fall prey to attractive discounts and offers. Remember, there are deals, good deals, great deals and amazing deals. And then there are too-good-to-be-true deals. It is the last one that one needs to be careful about as chances of it being a bogus are high. For example an image of Dior bag worth Rs1 lakh, can be used to sell a fake bag for mere Rs5,000 or a Kylie Jenner lipkit worth Rs3,000 can be bought only Rs250 (off course counterfeit one).
(f) When buying a high-end brand, video tutorials on YouTube should be checked to distinguish the authentic from the fake or duplicate. There are many videos by manufacturers or fashion and tech bloggers to educate the public. Also, verify product features, look, packaging, labels, and logo placement by going to the brand website to ensure a safe choice.
(g) Customer reviews are a great tool to check the authenticity of the product. Most sites have a reviewing option.
(h) Seller information should also be checked for shipping method, hidden charges and the product description. Many a times, words such as ‘vintage’, ‘refurbished’ or ‘second hand’ may be missed leading to the customer getting a used product.
(i) Good companies blacklist sellers accused of selling fake products. International companies need to be sensitive to designs that have the potential of hurting the sentiments of the people due to religious and traditional factors. For example- Amazon listed door mats depicting Indian Gods leading to a furore and even the External Affairs Minister threatened action.
(j) Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal have their warehouses where goods, even those by third-party sellers, are stored. Once a consumer buys these goods, the shipping process is handled not by seller but by Amazon or Flipkart. If possible, buy the goods that are already in warehouses managed by e-commerce companies. They have tags such as -Amazon Fullfilled, Flipkart Advantage or SafeShip (in case of snapped).
(k) Cash-on-delivery is a great way to shop, but it may not be the safest for eBay transactions unless you use an inbuilt protection. On eBay, if you use PaisaPay, the seller is not paid until you have received your goods and are satisfied. If there is some problem, eBay withholds the money, steps in and tries to resolve the problem. This means your money is safe and in case the seller cannot satisfy you, there is an option for you to cancel the transaction and get the money back. But this works only if you use PaisaPay. If you choose to pay seller directly, eBay cannot help you much.
(l) During the payment procedure, check the URL of the website. Look at the search bar and make sure the URL starts with https. The “s” indicates it is a secure site. This is one way of protecting your credit card information and preventing identity theft. Even after delivery of the products, shred the delivery challan and do not keep it lying around. It might have certain personal information printed on it, which can be misused if fallen into the wrong hands.
(m) If one is unsure of the site, initially make a small purchase and see the delivery mechanism and customer redressal mechanism. Most reputable sites have some sort of mechanism to get back to you, and you can learn a lot about them in the way they reply. Anything written poorly is a warning sign, as is a reply from a generic email ID rather than the domain specific email ID.
(n) Always record a video while opening the product as this will help in submitting a concrete evidence in case of any default.
Every coin has two sides. With providing amazing benefits, such a medium of purchase can also emotionally and financially handicap a person. Thus, the necessary measures should be followed and promoted. Happy and safe online shopping!