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Refunds on Counterfeit Goods

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 28 Nov 2012 |
Refund Goods Fake Purchase Money Cheap

Counterfeit goods are goods that infringe someone else’s trademark: that is to say, to use or copy someone else’s brand or trading name without seeking the permission of the owner beforehand. Piracy is copying someone else’s copyright without authority. Both are criminal activities, and are problems rife around the world.

Often the proceeds of counterfeit goods are used to fund more serious criminal behaviour, so governments take a dim view of anyone who sells them. In the UK, those convicted of an offence of making or dealing in counterfeit goods face up to 10 years in prison or a large fine. We often think of DVDs and luxury goods when we think of counterfeiting but in fact a huge variety of goods are copied unlawfully: from fake pharmaceutical drugs, to spirits, electronics, luxury goods, football shirts, as well as food and cigarettes.

There is an old adage that states you only get what you pay for: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The market for forgeries is huge and can catch the unwitting consumer as well as those who are complicit in the counterfeit trade and know they are buying forgeries.

What About Buying On Ebay?

People often assume that because the goods are not genuine, they do not have any rights in relation to the seller. This is not the case. You may still be able to claim under the rights prescribed by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended) because what you’ve purchased isn’t ‘as described.’ There are a lot of fakes on the Internet but a recent series of court cases, in which purveyors of luxury goods successfully sued Ebay for damages, confirmed that the auction sites must take some responsibility for the listings on their sites.

So if you buy something on an auction site which you genuinely think is a bargain, only to receive it and realise you have bought a fake, what are your options? If you buy from a private seller in the UK, they don’t have to comply with all the requirements that businesses do. All they are required to do is sell something that is ‘as described.’ If they do this – and often you will see on auction sites that people are very careful when they sell goods without a receipt, proof of purchase, tags or other means which might go some way to prove authenticity – then beware.

If once you receive something and discover it’s a fake, when the advertisement or you were told that it was real, you should be entitled to your money back. The problem is though that the seller may just ignore you – and if you bought from a market stall – you probably won’t be able to find them again.

Fakes At The Market

If you buy fake goods on a market stall, you can report the seller to trading standards. Under the Trade Descriptions Act it is a criminal offence to apply a false description to any goods in the course of a trade or business, or to offer goods for which a false trade description is applied for which the offender may face a prison sentence or a fine.

Some specific products have their own organisations which are set up to combat counterfeit trading in their industry (e.g. FACT or AACP). Remember too, that the Sale of Goods Act does not cover items bought abroad. If you buy something that is fake through an online auction site, report the seller to the auction site. If you buy something from a shop, and it’s fake, take it back and demand a refund.

Cheap Imitation Or Fake Goods?

Remember also that there is sometimes quite a thin line between genuine items and cheap imitations. For example, just look at the ways that high street shops mimic catwalk fashions. This is usually perfectly legal – but the price tells you that there’s a difference in quality. For example, you might be surprised if a £1000 handbag fell apart within a year, but you’d probably forgive its £10 imitation if it did the same thing. Reasonable quality, therefore, is relative.

If you allow yourself to become too excited by the prospect of owning a bargain, try to step back from the situation before you part with your cash– it’s probably not what you think it is.

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