Counterfeit products are low-quality imitations of original items. Shoes that should last over a year look worn out in months, headphones with awful sound quality, or worse products that do not meet health and safety standards. While the quality of counterfeit items can sometimes come close to the authentic products they aim to mimic, the money that customers save on products sometimes comes at a tremendous cost.
Here are some products Red Points advises consumers to pay extra care to when purchasing to ensure they are getting the real deal.
- List of high-risk counterfeit items
- Why these products represent a threat to consumers’ health and safety
- Why consumers should be wary about counterfeit goods
1. Sex Toys
The market for sex toys has exploded in recent years to an estimated $23.7bn worldwide in 2017, so it isn’t surprising that counterfeiters are trying to cash in. This puts consumers at massive risk because they are often too embarrassed to have an open discussion about the topic, and can make people too nervous to seek medical help when things go wrong. In fact, our research shows that 2/10 respondents surveyed believe to have bought counterfeit sex toys online.
So, let’s be serious here. Counterfeited sex toys can be dangerous enough to kill users. They are often made of toxic materials, such as phthalates, or porous materials which harbour dangerous, infectious bacteria. Toys with an electrical component can suffer from shoddy design and production which, if they malfunction during use, can be extremely dangerous.
Using products of low quality can be dangerous in regular settings, but when they’re being used in sexual situations, it’s doubly important that none of these items malfunction or cause harm to our most sensitive areas. Trust the authentic brands and you can avoid a painful, and embarrassing, rush to the emergency room.
We spoke to Tenga, a brand that creates adult novelty products, about the problems that consumers face in the event they get their hands on a counterfeit product. As seen in the comparison image below, a responsible brand such as Tenga takes steps to ensure the quality and safety of their products, by:
- Using body-safe ingredients,
- Manufacturing in sterile environments, and
- Using durable, high-quality materials
Cosmetics can be expensive, but if you’re excited about a date and want to show off your best self, they can feel like a necessity. So, it comes as no surprise that many people choose to buy counterfeit cosmetics, either intentionally, or simply by accident while bargain-hunting. In the run-up to holidays such as Mother’s Day, Red Points’ analysts regularly see a spike in counterfeit beauty products, especially on social media. According to internal data pulled from over 40 beauty brands, Red Points saw a 40% increase in detections of fake beauty items on social media sites in the weeks leading to Mother’s Day in 2018, and that 30% of all intellectual property infringements for beauty brands were found on Facebook or Instagram.
Fake perfumes wearing the labels of Gucci, Lacoste, Chanel containing substances such as antifreeze and urine and more were confiscated by police in New York. Other confiscated perfumes have tested positive for methanol, and other toxic chemicals, while make-up products sold by counterfeiters have been found to contain aluminium, arsenic and mercury and users of these products rush to the hospital, complaining of rashes, allergic reactions and even chemical burns.
3. Car Parts
The U.S. Federal Commission values the counterfeit auto parts industry at a cool $12 billion a year. The risks are very self-explanatory, however counterfeit car parts have become a huge problem in recent years. Countries like Saudi Arabia have been the worst affected to date, but we are now seeing an increase in the activity in Europe, the U.S, and in Australia. One of the main issues is that people purchasing auto parts online may not be aware they are purchasing counterfeit products.
Modern-day car parts are pretty complex and it would take someone with specific knowledge to spot the difference between the real and a fake. The health implications are clearly huge. Car manufacturers have urged for customers to be careful when purchasing online and some have launched awareness campaigns about the severity of using counterfeit airbags; the crash dummy with the counterfeit airbag doesn't fare so well. We recently wrote a piece about the scale of this problem, finding that counterfeits parts are available for anything from brake pads to hydraulic hoses.
Worth about $75 billion a year, this industry is by far the most widespread form of counterfeiting and is a growing pandemic. Counterfeit medication is being sold unknowingly to both medical professionals and to individuals for self-medicating purposes. A World Health Organization report suggested that one-third of all counterfeit drugs have no active ingredient, which can be devastating for those in need of lifesaving medication exploited by profit-driven counterfeiters.
Cheap fake medication is often targeted at students such as study drugs, acne medication, fake morning-after pills, weight-loss drugs and even recreational party drugs. The problem has been growing for a while, claiming the lives of many unlucky consumers. There has been a number or cases of people becoming ill from taking fake medication, including the singer Prince, who is believed to have died from counterfeit pills. These illegal factories have very little control measures in place but can produce very official-looking drugs.
Electronic devices prove a massive risk to users if not carefully produced. A Tennessee family had their house burned down by a knock-off counterfeit hoverboard. Their children narrowly escaped with their lives by breaking an upstairs window and leaping to safety and three family members ended up with injuries. The aftermath of the incident is in the image below.
Examples of knock-off electronics causing fires or giving users painful electric shocks are far too common. Counterfeit batteries are especially problematic, as one poor-quality battery can cause equipment like a laptop to meltdown. A counterfeit lithium battery which malfunctions can cause extreme chemical reactions, heating up to 800°C (1,500°F) in a matter of seconds.
Red Points’ research, “Shocking Counterfeits - The spread and consequences of fake electronics online,” provides a deep investigative look into a wider range of data on consumer electronics taken from surveying 270 respondents across a wide range of education and income levels.
6. Baby products
Every parent wants to keep their children safe, and falling victim to counterfeiters’ tricks can have heartbreaking repercussions for families. Babies like to explore the world by putting things in their mouths. So, while companies in the West who make baby products are rigorously tested for the chemical makeup and choking potential of their products, counterfeiters aren’t held to such standards. Parents must be careful with what they’re letting their children play with because if it’s a counterfeit, it’s anyone’s guess of how safe it is.
It’s even a problem when the parents are present with the baby. Counterfeit baby carriers, car seats, and prams are widespread, and they do not have the same structural integrity of authentic products. Parents trust legitimate brands to make products that won’t collapse or break while their child is inside, so we advise them to take a careful look at what they’re buying online. Mistaking a counterfeit as authentic could become a terrible error.
7. Climbing gear
Needless to say, this is something that customers shouldn't have an issue investing money in. The climbing community went into high alert after a series of sellers from Asia were producing counterfeit climbing products under the name of respected brands like Petzl's. Most people like to save money, but if scaling mountains is your passion and gravity is not your friend, then cheap fake alternatives are not worth the $50 in savings.
Fakes have continued to pop up since 2011, news channels and official organisations tend to alert climbers to be extra careful when buying specific products, depending on the counterfeit risk. It begs the question whether customers really know if they are being sold fakes; climbers tend to be fairly safety orientated given the consequences of even the smallest mistake. A quick glance online and you can get anything from counterfeit karabiners to rope. There is a large amount of these products aimed at suppliers as there are a minimum order levels on websites that exceed personal use levels. This is even more concerning as someone could buy this from a climbing shop or be used in large centers for rental purposes.
In conclusion, we at Red Points understand people are looking for a bargain when they hit the shops. However, we also know that buying counterfeit products can mean saving a little money now but paying a much greater price further down the line. So be smart, and don’t trust the counterfeiters.