FIGHTING THE FAKE TRADE IN DUBAI
WhatsApp orders replace secret rooms
Fake goods sellers are turning to WhatsApp and home deliveries to avoid being caught out in a renewed crackdown by the authorities.
Famed for their backroom collections of high-end knock-offs, the shop owners of Karama say they are now reluctant to keep handbags and watches on site.
The shift online comes as the Department of Economic Development (DED), which regulates the sale of goods in Dubai, revealed that they have raided and shutdown about 100 apartments found to be packed with fake goods. Sellers caught flogging fakes face a Dhs15,000 fine for the first offence, Dhs30,000 for the second and have their shops shut down the third time.
In the past, sellers have invited buyers into backrooms or nearby apartments where goods are stocked - which many say is now too risky.
“Police are constantly checking our shops, it’s too risky to keep these bags in the stores,” one fake goods seller, Saeed, told a 7DAYS reporter posing as a potential buyer. “Police are always around, it’s too much trouble madam.
“That’s why I now prefer to use WhatsApp. Just give me your number and I will deliver the items later to your house. I will deliver the bags to your home after midnight.”
Saeed was among at least 10 fake goods dealers that we spoke to in Karama. Some continue to stock goods in nearby apartments but many opt for home delivery.
Sellers typically send a snap of a wall of bags (pictured left) and ask prospective buyers to choose. They then send close-ups, showing the
quality. Most sellers describe the bags as ‘first class’, the most expensive at up to Dhs3,000. The ‘second class’ and ‘third class’ bags are the cheapest knock-offs.
Sellers boasted of Louis Vuitton satchels for Dhs550, Burberry for Dhs850 and Chanel for Dhs1,500.
Jumana, a Jordanian expat, sells via WhatsApp and delivers the goods in her car. Unlike the others, she only sells online.
Until recently she advertised fakes via Instagram, but recently shut her account down after the authorities warned of Dhs25,000 fines. She said: “I meet my customers at beauty salons and then I show them my items. Sometimes, I carry these items in my car and I keep pictures of them on my phone.
“I used to have an Instagram account showing pictures for these items. However, I closed recently.”
She added: “Women love luxury bags but they can’t afford them. I have been buying counterfeit goods, including bags, watches, sunglasses and pens from a Chinese man. He imports these goods from China and Thailand.”
A spokesman for DED said it is aware of the WhatsApp trend.
He added: “Selling fake products is illegal, irrespective of whether it’s done through WhatsApp or any other channel.”
Despite the risk, sellers continue to lure shoppers with ever higher-quality knock-offs. When 7DAYS took a fake Louis Vuitton bag to the Dubai Mall store, the copy convinced staff. One assistant said: “I really like your bag. Louis Vuitton stopped selling this design a while ago.”
ON OFFER: Pictures of fake bags are sent to potential buyers, who then send back their selection and await delivery to their home or hotel