St. Louis, Mo., Dec. 11, 2013 – With many shoppers searching for holiday bargains online, Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to be alert for websites selling bogus designer clothing and accessories.
Fake Michael Kors website.
A woman from Columbia, Ill., said she paid $94 the day after Thanksgiving for what she believed was a Michael Kors handbag from www.officialMichaelKors.com. When she contacted Michael Kors offices in New York to ask about the status of her order, a company representative told her it had no record of her purchase. She said she later learned that the website where she bought the item is run out of China and has no connection to Michael Kors.
“I want to get the message out there (about avoiding suspect websites),” the woman said. “I don’t have a lot of money to be just throwing it away.”
BBB believes there may be hundreds of websites selling fake designer brands ranging from Coach to Louis Vuitton to Gucci. Many of the websites include the trademarked name of the designer brand. Others indicate they are a factory outlet store or make it appear they sell genuine goods at discounted prices.
“Consumers looking online for brand-name designer items need to be extremely careful,” said Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO. “Just because a website includes the name of a well-known designer does not mean it sells brand-name items. Too often, these sites are run by people looking to trick unsuspecting shoppers into buying fake products.”
A check of websites selling designer label items discovered several selling fake products. In some cases, the sites did not reveal they were selling copycat items. In other cases, the information was hidden at the bottom of the sites or in fine print.
In most cases, the illegitimate sites could be identified by the use of poor English.
“We are an official Coach outlet store, which gives you more choices to get top quality Coach at cheaper price,” says one site.
“We also glad to offer discount freight for customers if your order can be 10 pcs or more,” said another.
The sale of copycat designer products has plagued name-brand businesses for years.
Last year, Bloomberg reported that Hermes International, which manufactures Birkin handbags and silk scarves, won a $100 million judgment against 34 websites that sold copies of its designer products.
A federal court judge in New York ruled that the sites infringed on at least nine Hermes products including handbags, wallets, watches, belts and jewelry, Bloomberg said. A lawsuit by Tiffany & Co. and other retailers said that the online sale of counterfeit clothing, bags and jewelry cost luxury good makers about $30 billion a year, Bloomberg said.
Several designer clothing and accessory companies, such as Coach, are involved in educational programs to teach consumers about counterfeiting. On its website, coach.com, the company offers guidelines on avoiding counterfeiters and reporting counterfeit items.
Earlier this year, a consumer from Oklahoma filed a BBB complaint involving another Michael Kors site, www.michaelkorshandbagsclearance.com. She said that before she made the $84 purchase the business assured her in an email that the handbag was genuine. When she discovered it was a poorly made knockoff, she asked for a refund. She never received one.
“This site should be shut down,” she said.
The BBB offers the following tips for consumers shopping online for designer clothing or accessories:
- Research the website carefully to make sure it is legitimate. Look up the company’s phone number and call to verify that you are ordering from a company site.
- Don’t be fooled by a well-designed, professional-looking site. Often, the information and photos on the site are copied from legitimate websites.
- Look for poor grammar, spelling or punctuation, all clues that the site may be bogus.
- Beware of sites selling designer label items at deep discounts.
- Pay with a credit card if possible in case you need to challenge a charge.
- Contact the BBB for a BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, email@example.com, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org