“Counterfeit Hunters”, a Viable Solution or Opportunists?

By | December 7, 2016

China is known for its cheap, expendable goods. From plastics to hardware, China produces these goods around the clock, selling them around the world. Most notably, nearly everything we buy here in the US has a tag marked “made in China”. Within China though, producers are known for creating goods in the like and image of other, more expensive products. This form of counterfeiting is rampant in China, with no end in sight. Blatantly, cell phone companies will make their phones in the like and image of apple products, car companies will create their models and logos in the image of famous brands, and clothing companies will sell garments with fake material or fake brand markings. Also, medium sized companies will make their products with sub-par materials or ingredients, not only making them inauthentic but also dangerous to use for the consumer. This has become the norm in China, which has become a haven for this type of business strategy. Local authorities as well as the central party in China are against this type of counterfeiting, but have not yet directly drawn a line in the sand directing to exactly what defines a true counterfeit, and what is simply just a look-alike. This lack of definition has caused confusion in enforcement and retribution for top brands selling in China.

An interesting  way China battles its counterfeit market is through special shoppers, we can call them “counterfeit hunters”. These high-profile shoppers go store to store browsing for top products, only to purchase them to reveal their inauthentic nature. These counterfeit hunters, utilizing consumer protection laws, turn in their findings to the local authorities and are paid tens of thousands of RMB by the companies producing the counterfeit products as compensation. This type of bounty hunting is quite lucrative, counterfeit hunters find the most success in the food, clothing, and tech industries, as there are so many fake products, that anyone could go anywhere these types of items are sold and find something inauthentic.

Now, though, these “counterfeit hunters” are being accused by local authorities who say these types of vigilantes are taking advantage of the system and making out like bandits. These secret shoppers can make some serious money simply by walking around shopping malls. The shoppers themselves would tell you they are working to keep consumers rights in check, keeping counterfeit businesses at bay while also creating a safer environment for shoppers, especially in the food industry. Many of these types of shoppers have formed small conglomerates, working together and buying counterfeits in bulk, sharing the profit from the payouts, and increasing their knowledge of fake goods.

With the increased popularity of e-commerce shopping, counterfeit hunters have opened a new front in the war against fake products. Although these vigilantes are working around the clock and growing in number from month to month, they can only scratch the surface of the reality of China’s counterfeit business practices. Logistically, China needs to crack down on these types of predatory business practices domestically, set more restriction on production, and join the rest of the world in protecting intellectual property rights on high profile brands and products.

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