Ocean County freeholder warns consumers of counterfeit products
That is certainly a golden rule when shopping at street vendors, open-air markets, flea markets and stores that sell deeply discounted items.
“While many of the products are of good quality, and the majority of businesses are legitimate, there are those that attempt to fool the consumer and sell counterfeits, name brand knockoffs that are problematic and in some instances can pose hidden dangers to the consumer,” said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, chairman of the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs. “We want to raise shopper awareness and remind them not everything they buy is the real thing.”
He noted that law enforcement as well as consumer affairs is working with private companies to step up awareness and to combat criminal activity related to counterfeit sales.
Vicari said that especially during the warm weather there is a proliferation of flea markets, yard sales and street vendors carrying items from handmade crafts to things you would find on the supermarket shelf. He said it’s those consumer name brand items sold in these venues that can be suspect.
Vicari’s ire over counterfeit products was raised when he learned a resident had purchased counterfeit razor blades.
“This type of counterfeit item can cause real harm especially if the consumer is unaware this is not a name brand item. There is a safety concern and a real health hazard when items like these are sold,” Vicari said. “It’s important to check and double check if you decide to buy this somewhere outside of a drugstore or a supermarket.”
In response to a letter Vicari sent to Procter and Gamble, raising concerns about the counterfeit razor blades he was informed that counterfeiting has become a widespread problem facing major consumer product companies, and Procter and Gamble continues to invest heavily in a worldwide effort to stop the importation of these counterfeit products.
Counterfeit products come in all shapes and sizes and according to consumer agencies some of the more common counterfeit products are auto parts, aircraft parts, baby formula, apparel, purses, jewelry, shampoo, cosmetics, razor blades, sunglasses, software, medical devices, consumer drugs and medicines and food products to name a few.
Tips to avoid buying counterfeit items are plentiful. Experts at the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, and the International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI) have similar tips for spotting fake goods and suggest using the Three P’s — which stand for Price, Product, and Place.
· Price: If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. It helps to know what usually price ranges are for products, and buy within those price ranges.
· Product: Check out the quality before buying – including labels, details on the product (including words and designs) and the packaging it comes in. If there is damage, sloppy stitching or old packaging, the product could probably be fake.
· Place: Know who an authorized dealer is and buy from them especially when buying spare or replacement parts. Legitimate products are not sold in places like street corners, flea markets, dark alleys or mall kiosks.
“And, while these three tips are helpful, consumers need to be savvy before they venture out to make a purchase no matter how big or small,” Vicari said. “Information and research are key to not getting ripped off and worse yet harmed in some way.”
Vicari noted the same also holds true for buying over the Internet.
“Buyers always need to beware,” Vicari said. “Especially during difficult economic times, lots of scam artists are looking to make a buck and a savvy consumer will feel confident they are spending wisely after doing their homework.’”
Some tips for avoiding counterfeit items online are as follows from Internet Scambusters.org .
· Don’t ever buy an item that you learn about via bulk email (“spam”). Your chances of receiving the item *at all* are only 45%, and the chance of your getting what you think at a reasonable price (so you’re happy with the transaction) is less than 5%. In other words… “If it’s spam, it’s a scam.”
· Always use a credit card to purchase online. This protects you. Your maximum exposure is $50, and often you won’t even lose that amount if you get scammed.
· If you are buying something at a reputable online auction site, always check out the references for the seller and only buy from sellers who have good references. And take advantage of online auction guarantees, such as those offered by Amazon.com.
· Don’t conduct business with an anonymous user. Get the person’s real name, business name (if applicable), address, and phone number. Verify this information before buying. And don’t send your payment to a post office box.
· Be more cautious if the seller uses a free email service, such as hotmail, yahoo, etc. Of course, most people who use these free services are honest. However, most problems occur when a free service is used. After all, with a free email service, it is very easy for the seller to keep his or her real identity and information hidden.
· Save copies of all of the emails and other documents involved in the transaction. Then, if you discover that an item is counterfeit, you have documentation to help you deal with the problem.
· Use common sense and trust your intuition. If you have a funny feeling about an item, don’t buy it. You’re very likely right that it is counterfeit.