Avoiding dodgy products
Consumer Protection recently attended an intellectual property rights workshop in Perth where makers of products, particularly electrical items, showcased physical examples of genuine and non-genuine items to highlight the differences.
A number of counterfeit products pose a safety risk to consumers, including things like:
Phone chargers, which may cause an electric shock or fire.
Cosmetics or perfumes with ingredients that can burn skin.
Clothes made with harmful poisonous dyes.
Sunglasses that don’t protect your eyes from UV rays.
“Consumer guarantees” under the Australian Consumer Law mean products must be safe, match the description given and be of acceptable quality.
It is against the law to create a misleading overall impression on the intended audience about the price, value or quality of goods.
Tips to avoid buying counterfeit products
Research identifying features of genuine articles, such as holograms or serial numbers.
Be aware some manufacturers of premium brand products have developed tools for consumers to determine whether an appliance is genuine. Details can usually be found on the official website for that brand.
Genuine electrical items must meet Australian standards — they should have approval markings. Visit energysafety.wa.gov.au.
Check businesses are registered with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (asic.gov.au).
When buying online find out about the seller’s reputation by checking customer rating systems, online forums and review websites.
Use a third-party payment service like PayPal or a credit card for payment protection.
When buying from a business on eBay, choose the “Buy it Now” function if possible, as opposed to auction bidding, so you are covered by the Australian Consumer Law.
If you’re buying from a private seller, ask for proof that the item is genuine. The ACL generally does not apply private sales.
If you have bought an item you suspect is counterfeit, speak to the retailer in the first instance.
If the retailer is in Australia and you cannot resolve the matter, lodge a complaint with Consumer Protection at complaint.commerce.wa.gov.au.
If it’s from an international retailer you can report the matter via econsumer.gov and to the overseas-based fair trading or consumer protection agency for that country.
If you have paid by credit card, ask your card provider for a chargeback on the basis you unknowingly bought counterfeit goods/the item supplied is not as described. If you used Paypal, seek a refund via their dispute resolution process.
Gwynneth Haywood is the senior regional officer at Consumer protection.