Counterfeit goods can pose a threat to the health and safety of consumers at the best of times, but the issue has become even more prevalent during the global coronavirus pandemic. Product listings designed to deceive consumers have increased in recent weeks, according to a new report by online brand protection software provider Incopro, Pulling Together in the Age of COVID-19: A Brand Protection Action Plan. These deceptive listings offer poor quality products that make dubious claims about efficacy and exacerbate the public health risk facing the world currently.
Incopro’s brand protection software platform has detected spikes in non-genuine hygiene products that seek to capitalize on public demand, including:
A number of platforms such as Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba, and YouTube have taken a proactive approach to removing listings that explicitly mention coronavirus. However, infringers selling counterfeit products are evading these rules by not explicitly mentioning the virus, or selling lookalike versions of major brands’ hygiene products that trick consumers while not explicitly violating those brands’ intellectual property.
- 272% growth in listings of non-genuine hygiene-related products such as hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes on ecommerce marketplaces, such as Amazon, eBay, and Wish, in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the equivalent period in 2019. Purchasing these products increases health risks due to consumers believing they are protecting themselves when the products have not been properly tested and are likely to be ineffective.
- Over 1,160 social media posts detected across four key platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vkontakte) selling counterfeit respiratory masks during one week in March 2020 – a 2,490% increase as compared to the minimal levels of similar posts in December 2019 before the pandemic. These social media posts typically link to websites selling low quality versions of essential products, leading consumers to mistakenly believe they are being protected when they may not be.
- Explosion in listings of lookalike branded hand sanitizers that purport to be legitimate brands across platforms such as Amazon, Ebay, and Wish – over 100 listings related to a single brand on Amazon alone. Lookalike brands are designed to trick consumers into thinking they are buying authentic product, but since they do not explicitly infringe intellectual property, platforms will not typically remove these listings.
“Modern infringers are agile and responsive to market conditions,” says Piers Barclay, chief strategy officer at Incopro. “At times like these, brands must be proactive in monitoring for non-genuine versions of their products online in order to protect their consumers and help defend against the impact of the pandemic.”
Additionally, Incopro observed spikes in knockoffs for a range of products that do not have direct ties to COVID-19 protection, as counterfeiters look to capitalize on increased online shopping. Since December 2019, for example, Incopro’s software has tracked:
- 94% increase in non-genuine listings of home appliance products and spare parts
- 51% increase in non-genuine listings of sporting goods and running shoes
- 45% increase in non-genuine listings of high-end, luxury shoes
To download Pulling Together in the Age of COVID-19: A Brand Protection Action Plan, click here.