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Fake Goods Sold by AliExpress, Amazon, eBay, Walmart and Wish (cbc.ca)
59 points by ovis 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments

I get that people are outraged about this. And that's one side of it.

But I also feel like people need to know how to use these platforms. If you're getting a heavy discount, from a sketchy source, then maybe there's a reason for it. Idk about Wish, but platforms like ebay, aliexpress, etc. are great even for things like electronics if you know what you're buying like leds, microchips, etc. Makeup, perfume, power related applications, audio, etc. are the types of products that I would be very wary of. I think it still might be possible to find good sources for those things, but it's more of a gamble.

Before we crucify these platforms, and call for more regulations, etc, let's also remember that they do provide a valuable, cheap service for some.

> If you're getting a heavy discount, from a sketchy source, then maybe there's a reason for it.

Talk about a perverse incentive. Maybe I should sell fake AirPod Pros for (MSRP-$3). Enough that the price feels right to make you think it's the real deal, and as a reward, I'll make more profit!

Then it wouldn't work.

They purposefully price it low so that people will go against their better judgement because they can get a really great deal. It wouldn't really be the same scam if they priced it higher.

And I am not saying price is the only indicator. Just that low prices are usually a red flag.

Although, there are studies that show increased sales for products by just increasing their prices and nothing else. So that incentive exists either way, scam or not.

There are excellent non-fake products from AliExpress. I have bought several trinkets but nothing over $20. They are super buyer oriented I've never had problem getting refunded for damaged goods. I buy capacative touch pens at 1/10th the cost of the exact same ones I see in Walgreens.

> What's more, the product was found to contain 751 times the amount of lead Health Canada considers acceptable in cosmetics.

How long are we going to let companies hide behind their "platform" bullshit?

They know this happens but, because they're not the actual seller, they get to offload the liabilities to some fly-by-night company that'll close down and reopen under a different name.

Lead in products is dangerous and people should be going to jail but nothing ever happens.

Get caught, close the company, open a new one, pay some fees to open the reseller account and continue hurting people.

My previous role was scraping and automating the removal of offending items from auction sites. eBay sort of cared, the rest didn't give a shit. Amazon especially.

Ideally, this sort of market abuse would be translated into mistrust by the consumer.

But I think a case can be made that it already is. Most consumers understand buyer-beware on online merchant websites (especially since eBay was rampant with this issue at its inception and has gotten better over the years). Perhaps it is the responsibility of the consumer to self-educate, not the responsibility of the market broker to exhaustively police the vendors that use it? To spin the story around a bit: Amazon, eBay, et. al. don't background-check buyers to make sure they're not buying a product to build a bomb or something with it. Why are they obligated to background-check the other half of the transaction?

Without easy access to the relevant information? I mean how would the average customer know from the Amazon page or from even using the product that there is 751 times more lead than allowed in it?

If the distributor was required to test the product and put a large red banner "might induce lead poisoning" on the product page, then of course the consumer could choose. Alas, that's not the case.

Why should that responsibility rest on the distributor's shoulders and not the original manufacturers?

If people were deeply concerned about lead, shouldn't we expect that products that can offer such a guarantee have a market advantage? Amazon et. al. make product attribute comparison pretty straightforward.

If you buy any health product, makeup, etc from AliExpress we should call this natural selection. Only half joking.

I don't want to see AliExpress closed down just because some girl decided it was a good idea to buy lipstick there at an unbelievably low price.

People are downvoting this but it is true. Consumers have the responsibility to pay attention to where their goods come from. If you are buying something directly from China for an extremely cheap price, you shouldn't expect it to be genuine (not fake) or safe for bodily contact.

What if it is a counterfeit not coming directly from China? You can still be duped when the seller is stealing the pricing, ads and marketing materials of the genuine product.

Each product listing seemed legitimate, with some prices that compared to retail stores and official-looking advertisements.

This is what we're talking about here, not the marketing obvious knockoffs with comically misspelled brand names. Even the article talks about only authenticating the products after they were purchased and received.

And if it comes from an Amazon seller that lists their location as California, but all of their stuff comes from China?

Who is asking for AliExpress to close down?

You think they have to sell products containing 700+ times the safe lead level to stay open?

Im fine with platforms but there have to be criminal penalties for selling harmful products. Start throwing people in jail.

i don't understand how you can hold these two beliefs at once.

if you believe that it is fundamentally unsafe to buy health products and makeup from aliexpress, then isn't it also reasonable to believe that aliexpress shouldn't sell it? there's a "people should be free to make bad decisions" counterargument, but as a society we've decided against that: it's the reason we have consumer protection laws.

put another way: if you made marketplaces accountable for selling dangerous items like this, you would push them out of the segments that are most dangerous.

Having AliExpress check the safety of all of their products would increase the price of all of them substantially. That would me bad for me.

To make matters worse, the kind of girl who buys lipstick on AliExpress doesn't buy cheap Z80 clones or radios there, so she wouldn't come back to that site again once they take the lipstick down; only informed buyers would suffer the consequences. How's that fair?

This frustration seems like it's just being directed at the closest entity you can shake your fist at rather than the actual cause.

Suppose all those fly-by-night companies set up merchant accounts on Shopify or just bought cheap Wordpress template and hosted it themselves and did the exact same thing. The world of boutique men's watches is absolutely rampant with this. Would you be demanding that Shopify or Tim Berners Lee vet all the products before they're sold. Would you demand that Visa/Mastercard do it? What about UPS/FedEx?

If you want to require businesses to get licenses and submit themselves to regular safety audits then just say that. Don't try to offload the responsibility of law and public policy to random corporations.

If you're buying off of a Shopify site, the only endorsement is from the seller. And you know who you're buying from. Amazon is allowing these companies to sell in Amazon's name. I'm not charged by YouCantBelieveItsNotNike, my CC bill says Amazon. I return these products to Amazon. Amazon is the seller.

>If you're buying off of a Shopify site, the only endorsement is from the seller.

Isn't that basically the same as on eBay and Alibaba?

Ebay has a curated front page but it never shows stuff sold from a jurisdiction distant enough to not be accountable for shady practices. It seems like amazon is the odd one out here since they hold inventory, ship it and sell a lot of things themselves.

FYI, as an official policy, eBay doesn't allow counterfeit goods to be sold: https://www.ebay.com/help/policies/prohibited-restricted-ite...

It's reasonable for shoppers to see this as an endorsement and assume eBay actually enforces this policy.

Counterfeit items, e.g. video games, are all over eBay. I’ve reported many auctions over the years as infringing and have never seen one taken down.

If they set up their own shops, then they'd be far less visible, and they wouldn't benefit from the reputations that fairer dealers get.

Those "random corporations" are a few very large players who have won the network effect lottery. Most people will go to the place that everybody knows, especially if it's cheap. There's only room in the public brain space for a small number of these. It's very hard to set up a new one, especially if its tag line is "More expensive but at least it won't kill you".

Such natural monopolies are frequently subject to regulation if they won't do it themselves, simply out of self-protection. They're not just the "closest entity"; they're a bottleneck where regulation is feasible. But such regulation is going to be more cumbersome if it comes from an outside entity, so they should take calls like this as a sign that it will be worse for them one way or the other. Today, they've got some flexibility in their solution.

Amazon ships products from their warehouses, in their packaging, charges credit cards as "Amazon.com", provides customer support, and accepts product returns. This makes it generally indistinguishable to the consumer if they're purchasing from Amazon or a sketchy third party vendor, as simply the "best" deal gets populated into the buy box. Unless a consumer drills down into the full offer list, the specific 3rd party merchant and the corresponding ratings are completely hidden.

That's significantly different from someone running their own ecommerce site where they are very clearly the merchant of record.

They should have to buy liability insurance and if the insurer won’t insure them, they can’t list.

Offloading the work of law to insurance companies rather than retailers doesn't really sound like we're making any progress.

Sidebar: this is super common btw, had more than one law professor go on a rant about how all the CS people in their courses just want to push everything to the actuaries and create a de-facto court system within insurance.

Insurers already do this... They don’t insure risky companies or they have to charge such a high premium that constantly failing and restarting is not cost effective. I think most complaints here are from people trying to buy legitimate products.

Nah, fines are just a cost of doing business.

Anyone selling harmful products, like lead lipstick, should be thrown in jail.

I agree. How do you jail a foreigner? You can’t even class action against sellers nowadays to protect the other buyers because of forced arbitration agreements. But if they had to be insured, the insurance available would be non-existent.

Why is anyone shocked AliExpress products are fake? I only go there if I want a knock off version of something (shirts, AirPod cases, etc.). Ebay and Amazon are also not surprising either, but both retailers often have the "official merchants" of products that are being sold. As long as you buy through the official storefronts, then you're good to go.

We shouldn't have to be investigative reporters in order to buy products that won't harm us.

Even the merchant name is bullshit on Amazon.

Try finding Apple headphones and see how many are sold by merchants named "Apple".

Amazon has to know that product is not actually being sold by Apple, yet they allow the counterfeiting to continue.

> We shouldn't have to be investigative reporters in order to buy products that won't harm us.

There are other marketplaces that offer a much higher quality guarantee than Amazon. Shop there instead.

Why do you accept that it’s ok to sell harmful products?

Amazon is a $1 trillion dollar company. It’s not some guy selling things out of the trunk of his car. It should be reasonable for me to assume buying something there is safe.

> It should be reasonable for me to assume buying something there is safe.

The only thing we should ever assume is that a company has policies and will honor those policies as required by law.

Here's Amazon's policy on guarantee. https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=... There is no mention of safety.

Here's Amazon's policy on safety. https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=... There is no guarantee associated with it.

They are a trillion-dollar company, but what we're observing is that the market isn't hyper-thirsty for safety guarantees and is willing to accept their current climate for service convenience. Other stores will let you make a different safety-convenience tradeoff.

individual freedom. I hate nanny government regulation. The government's role isn't to protect people from making bad decisions.

Harmful is subjective. Don't ban my plastic bags or straws.

Fire risk batteries being harmful, for but one example, is hardly "subjective".

Apparently in your world, it's perfectly okay for Joe Johnson to create an Amazon merchant account called "Apple" and sell me and sell me defective products under the Apple label.

Allowing corporations to lie to you is not most people's idea of freedom.

The nearest Target to me is 130 miles away. Non-coastal states exist.

Target is HQ'd in Minnesota. I'm pretty sure they recognize non-coastal states.

Don't go to Target then.

You're thinking of the old Amazon interface. New Amazon displays the brand but combines the fulfillment behind the scenes (mixed sku's). Let's say you are making and selling your own "gsuppys hair cream", 5 boxes a day. I can send 1000 boxes to Amazon and take over your sales without being shown as the seller. Complaints and bad reviews go under your product name too.

I thought they mixed skus?

I have basically stopped buying anything from Amazon that I can just buy direct from the manufacturer. Especially clothes, kids toys, etc. Most online stores now have shipping that is almost as fast, and 9 times out of 10 an extra couple of days shipping is not a big deal.

That 1 time in 10 is still a factor, though...

Many retailers still operate on the old expectation that when you order something, you'll get it in "6-8 weeks", which nowadays, is frankly ridiculous!

I ordered a crib from a local Canadian retailer, and the thing arrived after THREE MONTHS, and I had to pick up the box from the warehouse myself!

You have to give Amazon props for their logistics systems, they've gotten it down to an art. If I were to order the same crib from Amazon, it would've been at my door in 2 days' time.

Might've been a fake crib, though heh.

Given that a fake crib can actually kill a baby, this is one of those times where I put aside my convenience and drive to a real brick and mortar store and buy the crib myself.

Your comment implies that a real crib wouldn't be able to do the same.

I am not sure why you are getting down voted but I did want to expand on this. I have a somewhat similar philosophy, though I still buy low value items from Amazon. What I discovered that online stores that have a truly seamless experience (for example well implemented apple pay etc) remove so much friction that the amazon option becomes less appealing. The issue is still with items that you would not know where to source from directly (like replacement part for a dishwasher) but these are usually low cost items anyway.

People actively seek out fakes, especially in the luxury space. For every person who would be glad that their faux product was intercepted, there's just as many who would be mad they didn't get their Gukki belt, or just not notice.

People actively seek out fakes

Then they should be marketed (and priced) as such.

I noticed that Wish gives refunds on counterfeits without question, provided you upload a photo of the item. It got me wondering if that's to avoid any legal liability. The law states that "trafficking" in illegal goods is a crime, and clearly these platforms don't want to be charged.

So, assuming they're actually legally required to refund purchases of counterfeits, I think a reasonable recourse would be to have as many people as possible order as many counterfeits as possible and then demand refunds. The platforms' cost per transaction goes up, and the manufacturers/resellers are out their items plus shipping.

I feel this would work best if the actual manufacturers that are being copied did the buying, that way they have legal recourse at their disposal and a literal pile of evidence if the refund is denied. And they can destroy the counterfeits.

“Show me the incentives and I will show you the outcome.”

There are currently few economic incentives for these market places to try harder to stop counterfeit vendors. The solution seems to be harsher consequences for the marketplaces.

I'm also kind of surprised by Walmart's inclusion. There are no examples in the article on their products, and they say that Walmart disputed the findings, so what's the deal? I wasn't aware that they were using 3rd party vendors in the same way Amazon does.

I believe Walmart's online store offers items from third parties but honors Walmart's return policies and guarantees. In order to compete with selection of options for online marketplaces like Amazon, I imagine they had to start sourcing products from third parties that don't typically appeal to the masses and fit in their store models.

In physical stores, last I checked, counterfeits weren't really applicable in anyway and seems to be fairly well quality controlled.

When you spot a counterfeit, buy as many as you can afford and then demand a refund when they arrive.

And Shopify. It’s probably #2 behind Amazon, if I had to guess. Their one-stop deploy a drop ship website is far too convenient.

Every online marketplace/platform becomes an opportunity for price arbitrage via dropshipping.

I felt silly when I bought a few rolls of shelf-liners on Amazon and they shipped in a Walmart box because I didn't check.

This is all by design, I remember reading this WSJ article last year.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazons-heavy-recruitment-of-ch... "A new product listing is uploaded to Amazon from Chaine every 1/50th of a second"

Amazon is heavily invested in getting as much Chinese trash on their US site and it does not seem to care much about the counterfeit problem.

If you're buying from AliExpress/Wish (aka: direct from china) I don't think there's much room for being surprised when you get fakes. eBay in many cases too.

Amazon especially needs to get its shit together, though. I unsubscribed from Prime and have all but stopped using Amazon because of how it's turned into basically "eBay with marginally faster shipping" at this point given all the absolute offbrand crap that's filling the site.

AliExpress=eBay=Amazon. They all sell the same stuff, it's only the shipping speed that's different.

They all hide behind the "Platform" laws and get to offload liability to some no-name fly by night company.

>AliExpress=eBay=Amazon. They all sell the same stuff, it's only the shipping speed that's different.

One of these companies does the warehousing, shipping and delivery as well as does a significant amount of promoting certain products, selling products itself and even has a house brand. The other two do not.

Same. My partner and I have both let our Prime subscriptions lapse because of this shit. We no longer buy from Amazon.

I let mine lapse a couple years ago because I realized I don't actually care that much if a package comes in 2 days or 3-5. I then noticed a lot of my Amazon shipments were coming in 3 days anyways.

I've found that in recent years, non-Prime orders will sit at the "ordered" phase for an extra few days, before finally being shipped at the same speed as a prime order.

I thought it might've been a holiday crush sort of situation, but it continued well past the new year (2019)

I've noticed the same thing.

I'm almost certain that at the scale Amazon works at, there has to be a priority queue for these sorts of things. There's no way they could make Prime work if they just changed the shipping method to make it faster, there has to be order fulfilment prioritization too.

I have as well, but Amazon isn't bad when what you need is cheap crap (a bag of 1000 cable ties, for example). Bonus: they keep offering me free trials of Prime so I just save up a cart of stuff and then buy it when they give me free shipping.

Would you order those cable ties if you were a low-voltage contractor suspending a bundle of ~100 cables for 200’ above an ACT grid ceiling? Cheap cable ties may work for bundling cables in your home rig or home stereo setup, but they may not be sufficient for a more robust load that a commercial application demands.

No, I wouldn't. But I'm not a low voltage contractor. To hold two Cat5e cables running through my basement, though? Sure. Heck I'd use tape if it wasn't a pain to remove later.

If I was buying for a commercial project I would use a supplier I trusted.

That’s fair, the 1000 pack is what contractors generally buy, which is why I wanted to make the point that counterfeit junk could make its way into permanent installations in commercial spaces and eventually fail. Not all contractors use quality materials, though generally the ones that offer guaranteed work and stand behind it spend the extra money for Panduit/Legrand/Etc.

To be fair to you, I probably misstated when I said 1000, it was just an example. I think what I actually bought was really closer to 200 or something.

In your specific example: Yes, and I would use more ties so the failure of one isn’t a problem. I wouldn’t however sell a customer a fake BMS panel or other electronics.

I believe the right thing to do is use wax cord in this circumstance anyway. I’d use a cheap one too.

I've also just stopped using Amazon for ethical reasons on top of the decline in quality.

However, if I want cheap stuff, that's what I use eBay for.

Given Amazon has just turned into, like I said, eBay with slightly faster shipping, I have no reasons to use it anymore.

At least with eBay you know what you are getting, Amazon seems to go out of its way to hide the fact you are buying from a 3rd party.

Exactly, that's why I use it when I want cheap above all else.

My experience:

1) I've been a seller on Amazon. 5 figure SKU counts, branded products. I was constantly being asked to provide invoices to prove that I had the right to procure and resell the products I was listing. I was also beholden to their metric standards and got delisted from the Buy Box regularly, until I could improve my numbers (operational bumps while we refined our processes... the standards were high enough if we fumbled a little bit, circumstances required a bit of time and attention to restore SOPs to required levels).

Not sure what these other entities are doing, but within the bounds of what I interacted with, and the age of my account, I wouldn't have been able to stay on the platform and keep selling if my fulfillment, returns and customer service metrics didn't stay within the acceptable thresholds.

2) I buy from Amazon regularly... household items, books, etc. So far, never had an issue with fakes. Always Prime, usually Fulfilled By Amazon.

This is why Costco is worth what it's worth. Why risk buying garbage elsewhere?

My wife and I purchase a lot of things from Amazon. We're taking a more critical look at what we buy ever since we had a baby.

We bought our car seat and stroller from Amazon, and we were honestly not sure whether it was certified for use in Canada. I shouldn't have to doubt any purchase I make online from a reputable retailer, but it seems Amazon no longer makes the cut for me.

For what it's worth, the car seat _did_ have the right stickers, but stickers can be faked too...

There's an absolute ton of fake climbing gear on Amazon, claiming to be legitimate brands and certified. Furthermore, goods from different suppliers are often mixed together in Amazon warehouses. So buying from the brand's own account doesn't necessarily mean it came from them!

I would strongly advise not getting any safety equipment like a car seat through Amazon.

I guess if your marketing team has invested in invidious consumption as your strategy then you can expect low cost copies, I mean just look at LVMH and it's owner, that french guy who was for a few hours the world's richest man. They marketed to Instagram and black culture but did not seem to understand that low income low paid workers also live in the ghetto and will seek the bargain item over the unattainable Peng ting.

So does wal-mart mix SKUs like Amazon, so that even when buying ‘direct’ from WM, you can get 3rd party supply?

Or is direct from wal-Matt part of their actual controlled store inventory?

In Switzerland, when you buy something for a price that is obviously too low (like a brand new iPhone for 100$) you lose all protection given to you by law in this purchasing contract. If it's a knock off, tough tiddies.

They don’t care about fixing this. Fake goods are a promotion for their platform as long as the quality is not super terrible.

Some do, some don't. Depends on the brand.

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