Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and regardless of whether you love it or loathe it, there is no denying the positive impact it has on retail sales. The build-up to the big day sees the romantics among us hit the shops in search for champagne, chocolates and whatever else we think will make the perfect gifts for our loved ones.
However, while a few years back we might have predominantly scoured the high street for these presents, many of us are now turning to the speed and convenience of the Internet. The beauty of e-commerce is that we can browse and purchase products from a far broader range of retailers than we could ever imagine on our high streets, and many of these companies now specialise in guaranteeing next-day delivery. But online shopping also comes with its downsides, primarily the proliferation of counterfeit goods and websites.
The counterfeiting problem has evolved over the last few years, and now sees many well-intentioned consumers being duped by counterfeit websites and fake products when shopping on the internet. Indeed, the latest research from MarkMonitor found that 45% of shoppers worry about unintentionally buying counterfeit products as gifts, and despite the fact that 91% said they wouldn’t knowingly buy a fake as a gift, nearly one in three said they had been caught out at some point in the past.
Additionally, of the 31% who had been caught out before, more than one-third (34%) said it had happened to them two or three times, 11% said it had happened between three and five times and 5% said it had happened more than five times.
These statistics really put the counterfeiting problem into perspective, and it is further amplified at a time such as this when people are searching for Valentine’s Day gifts. It’s not just over-priced roses or cheap boxes of chocolate that we need to keep an eye out for this year: the problem is far more widespread. Thankfully, our tips below will help to make sure your romantic gesture isn’t spoiled through fake products.
What’s the price?
Many of us live our lives by the mantra ‘if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is’. But this is not always true for counterfeiting, as the people behind these fake goods wise up and realize that cheap prices often send consumer alarm bells ringing. Instead, they’re now finding that the less the price is reduced, the more likely it is the consumer will believe it’s a genuine deal. To avoid being fooled, check the recommended retail price (RRP) of the gift in question and be wary of even the smallest discounts. Check elsewhere to see if the discount is being offered on any other websites, and always err on the side of caution if in doubt.
Check the website
With most of us searching for gifts through internet search engine results, it is all too easy to make a purchase while barely giving a moment’s thought to the credibility of the website in question. This is where we must exercise caution by reviewing the rest of the website before handing over our money. Be sure to browse around the website while checking for any signs that might indicate the website is not genuine — spelling and grammar errors often end up giving the game away. Pay particular attention to the ‘About’ and ‘FAQ’ sections, as these are the areas counterfeiters pay the least attention to, and check the delivery details to ensure they match the location of the genuine company.
Is there refund and privacy policies?
Any legitimate company website will have clear and comprehensive return and privacy policies for instances where the gift you purchase is damaged, faulty or simply needs to be returned. Therefore, if the website you’re visiting does not display these policies clearly, avoid it at all costs. If it does, give them a read through to make sure they seem legitimate.
Is the web address genuine?
Malicious individuals known as ‘cybersquatters’ will often seek to buy URLs that are confusingly similar to those of genuine brands and then impersonate the real website, in the hope that consumers stumble upon their site through innocent typos or spelling mistakes. This is why all URLs or search engine queries should be carefully double-checked for any errors that could lead to much worse consequences.
If ever unsure of the legitimacy of a URL, check to see whether it begins with ‘HTTP’ or ‘HTTPS’ — if it’s HTTPS then you can be reassured it’s secure. If not, you should make further checks before proceeding.
Depending on the gift you’re buying for your other half this year, online marketplaces can be a great way of bagging a bargain, but due to the fact anyone can create listings, these websites require extra care to avoid counterfeiting. Once you’ve found a listing that’s of interest, make sure you check the seller’s profile and read the reviews written by other users to determine whether they seem genuine or not.
Online counterfeiting is a problem that will persist for years to come, and it’s times such as these where more shoppers than usual are caught out when buying gifts. However, by keeping the tips above in mind when those all-important purchases, you can ensure your romantic endeavours are not unexpectedly ruined.