What to Do When You Buy a Counterfeit Item on eBay

fake brand name sneakers
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Counterfeit goods also called knockoffs, replicas, imitations, fakes, and "designer inspired" items are not allowed on eBay in any way, shape, or form. But that doesn't mean they aren't there. In fact, counterfeit items are present on eBay in droves, mostly because sellers don't know any better.

Regardless of the name you use to identify counterfeit goods, they’re becoming more and more commonplace on the internet, and not just on eBay. Counterfeit goods can be found on the street, on eBay, thrift stores, Facebook groups, Craigslist, garage sales, church sales, and consignment shops.

Why Is It Wrong to Sell Counterfeit Items?

Nobody is getting hurt, right? Well, maybe not directly but the counterfeit industry fuels other underground and illegal activities including prostitution, human trafficking, weapons, child labor, gangs, and street drugs. When you buy a counterfeit item, you are supporting all kinds of illegal activities, and eBay does not want to be involved in this market. 

What's the Difference Between Counterfeit and Knockoffs?

ShareAmerica, the U.S. Department of State’s platform, explains the difference this way: "Counterfeit goods pretend to be the real thing. They use the exact same brand or trademark logo or signature symbol, like the Nike swoosh, or the Coach logo. They are intentionally trying to make the buyer believe the item is authentic."

In other words, knockoffs imitate the look of an item but don't steal the exact logo or symbol to deliberately deceive the buyer. Examples could be a Target brand made to look similar to a leading mall brand of clothing. Not exact, but close to the more expensive brand it is copying.

How Do Fakes End up on eBay?

Notably, eBay is saturated with counterfeit goods for a few reasons:

  1. Sellers honestly don't know any better. They think that if they put a disclaimer on their listing that the item is a knock-off, that is acceptable. It isn't. 
  2. Sellers don't know the item is fake. Handbags, designer jeans, sunglasses, and watches are the most counterfeited items. But, UGG boots can be fake. So can Hugo Boss golf shirts, Burberry overcoats, and Bose headphones.
  3. Sellers know exactly what they are doing and don't think they will get caught.

Although eBay does not allow sellers to offer knockoff handbags, they show up on eBay because it is impossible for eBay to review every single new listing. Millions of items are posted each day. Evaluating every single item to see if it is counterfeit just isn't possible.

However, sellers who are caught selling imitation items can and do have their listings removed from eBay and may even be banned from selling on the platform altogether.

How to Tell If an Item Is Counterfeit

To identify a counterfeit item, look at all the pictures. Do the seams and patterns on the item match up perfectly? Like on a fake Coach bag, the “Cs” will be off-center, tilted a little bit, have jagged edges, or just look like shoddy construction. Legitimate items will have patterns centered on the front and back. The seams will also be well done with no gaps, puckers, or breaks.

Look at where the item was manufactured. While some legitimate designer items are made in China, you need to do your research to determine which ones. Does True Religion Jeans have a factory in China? Are all Louis Vuitton bags made in France?

Examine photos closely. Ask the seller if the images they have uploaded to eBay are of the actual bag you’re buying. If you’re not sure about anything, ask for more pictures—legitimate sellers will be happy to show you more.

You can also ask the seller to show you proof of authenticity. They should be able to show you a copy of their receipt or similar paperwork. If the receipt does not come from a reputable dealer, like a Coach store, Nordstrom, or Bloomingdales, it may be fake. Always do your research on the seller. Examine their feedback and their selling history.

If You Receive a Counterfeit Item from an eBay Seller

Intent does not matter. If the item is fake, you have recourse:

  1. Contact the seller and tell them. The seller may not even know. The seller should offer you a full refund. If they want the item back, they need to pay return shipping.
  2. If the seller does not cooperate, you are covered under the eBay Guarantee, because you received an item that does not match the seller's description. Open a return stating that the item you received is counterfeit, and eBay will take it from there.

Of course, eBay wants buyers to have a positive experience and return to do more business. This is why they offer the eBay Guarantee, which states, "Get the item you ordered or your money back."