Survey shows a staggering 24% of consumers have been duped by online counterfeiters

In the U.S. alone, online retail sales are projected to grow 57% to $414 billion by 2018. As the volume of online shopping grows and the number of e-commerce channels increase, so do the opportunities for counterfeiters. As savvy shoppers seek out the best deals online, they face an increased risk from the sale of counterfeit goods by brand impersonators masquerading as legitimate sources for genuine products. These threats cause concern for both brand owners and their legal departments, along with consumers.

In light of this, we wanted to understand consumers’ current attitudes towards shopping on the web and decided to conduct a piece of research with leading market research agency Opinium in November across Europe and the U.S.A. The survey analyzed the online shopping habits of 3,450 consumers across nine countries to understand shoppers’ opinions on issues such as buying counterfeit goods and online security. Finally, we will provide a few recommendations for corporate counsel.

Surprising findings

The Global Consumer Shopping Habits Survey revealed that almost one quarter of consumers have bought a product online that turned out to be counterfeit, including fashion or footwear, electronics, and digital content. In addition, the prevalence of buying counterfeit items online looks set to increase in the coming years as younger consumers are more likely to have bought counterfeit goods or said they would be willing to do so in the future. In the 18- to 34-year-old range, 39% had bought counterfeit items and 42% indicated they would purchase counterfeit goods in the future.

When it comes to general shopping behavior, we found that consumers do just over one-third (34%) of all their shopping online. Despite the number of shoppers who admitted to being caught out by online counterfeiters, the research actually showed that 70% of consumers would not buy counterfeit goods. Nearly half (48%) said they thought buying fake products was morally wrong.

Fake emails

We found that more than half of consumers (56%) have received counterfeit emails – that is, emails purportedly from a known brand that turn out to be from another company entirely. In fact, consumers are far more likely to have received an email that turned out to be counterfeit than they are to have knowingly been on a website selling counterfeit goods. One of the reasons for this could be that, given the levels of sophistication that counterfeiters use when developing websites, it is becoming more and more difficult for consumers to recognize a site as fake.

What does this mean for brand owners?

While consumers often do not intend to purchase counterfeit goods, the level of sophistication used by counterfeiters in setting up websites to sell fake goods is really high. This means that it is increasingly difficult for consumers to tell the difference between legitimate retailers’ websites and those selling fakes.

For brand owners, it is key to consider a comprehensive online brand protection strategy to detect and take down any illegitimate activities, including any trademark and copyright abuse. A successful brand protection strategy will preserve marketing investments, customer trust, and revenues by assisting in the elimination of confusing and potentially fraudulent use brands online.

Overall, these findings demonstrate that protecting and educating your consumers about online threats is a priority. Brand owners’ legal departments need to do their best to protect their brands and their customers, ensuring both the company and its consumers can take the strongest action possible to tackle the counterfeit challenge.

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