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What can I do if I receive a fake or counterfeit item?


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Question: What can I do if I receive a fake or counterfeit item?
eBay is a great place to find deals, but it can also be a haven for counterfeiters. This isn’t something that eBay (or its sellers) like to discuss, but the fact is that a small percentage of the goods on eBay (and a larger percentage of the goods in a few highly susceptible categories) are significantly underpriced and often not genuine.

Careful buyers can generally avoid counterfeit goods by checking sellers’ feedback and selling histories and by watching for red flags.

Still, even the most careful buyer may from time to time find themselves to be in receipt of fake or counterfeit goods.

Answer: If you're unlucky enough to have made a purchase on eBay that turned out to be fake or counterfeit, here are the steps that you should take in order to resolve the situation.

Get Your Money Back

The first thing you should worry about if you've been duped is getting your money back. This isn't just a selfish thing; when buyers get their money back, sellers don't profit, and this means that the incentive to continue to deal in fake and counterfeit goods is significantly reduced. So follow these steps immediately.
  1. Get a move on. Don’t wait to begin trying to resolve the issue, since the following steps take time and the window of time during which you can get your money back is comparatively small (generally 60-90 days).

  2. Try to get proof. Each of the following steps is easier if you can prove that the item is counterfeit, so do your best to get proof. This can be anything from a letter written by an appraiser or expert to a printed reference explaining the characteristics of “genuine versus fake” items of the type you bought (these are common online) along with photos of the item you’ve received. If you're unsure about where to begin, do a Google search for your item along with phrases like "how to identify a fake."

  3. Try to get a response from your seller. Begin by sending the information in question to your seller and demanding an explanation. Keep a copy of whatever the seller says. If the seller offers you a refund at this stage, you may choose to let the matter drop. Demand that the seller take care of any return shipping, and use the threat of further action to press them to accept these terms. Remember to be civil; sellers are much more likely to seek to resolve a complaint with civil buyers, and the seller him or herself may not be aware that the goods in question are counterfeit. Don't let the seller draw the process out for months, however. Remember, there's a time limit on your ability to get a refund.

  4. Go over the seller’s feedback again. If the seller is uncooperative, continue by going over their feedback again with a fine-toothed comb. Identify and add to your evidence any previous buyers who made similar accusations.

  5. Contact PayPal or your credit card issuer. If you paid for your item using your credit card, contact your card issuer and file a dispute, submitting all of the information you’ve collected in addition to the seller’s name and address, time of purchase, and payment receipt. In a majority of cases, the credit card issuer will reverse the charges, issuing you a refund. If you didn’t pay with a credit card but did pay with PayPal, file a dispute at PayPal, either by logging into your account and clicking on the “Resolution Center” link or by calling their customer service number at (402) 935-2050 in the United States.

Take Action Against the Seller

For many buyers, it's not enough to get your money back. You want to make sure that the seller doesn't continue to sell the same goods to other hapless buyers. If this sounds like you, take action with the following steps.
  • Leave negative feedback. Remember, sellers can no longer leave negative feedback for buyers, so there is little or no risk to your eBay account when you leave negative feedback about a seller. Be honest but civil in your feedback. Be careful not to state that you've received a fake or counterfeit item unless you are prepared to support such an accusation with proof (in order to avoid libel claims), but do state categorically that you weren't satisfied and would not buy from the seller again.

  • Contact local and national authorities. In the U.S., file a mail fraud complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspector. In the U.K., contact your Trading Standards office. In all cases, follow up by contacting local law enforcement for advice on how to pursue action against the seller.

  • Contact the producer of the genuine brand or article. Many brands and manufacturers are interested in hearing about and pursuing major counterfeit operations and will be happy to have a report that you’ve received counterfeit goods. Contact the manufacturer of the genuine item that you expected to receive and provide them all of the same information you’ve provided to your credit card issuer/PayPal and to the authorities. This information can help them either to launch an investigation or to prepare or bring legal action against the seller in question and/or the source of the goods.

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