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Counterfeiting, e-commerce and the Birkenstock case

Birkenstock leaves the Amazon e-commerce. The German company no longer accepts to sell products on a platform that offers them counterfeits

Starting from January 2018 Birkenstock definitively leaves the e-commerce giant Amazon. The well-known German manufacturer of shoes and sandals no longer accepts to sell their products on a platform that offers the same counterfeits. The global market for counterfeiting has reached unprecedented levels. On the web and social networks, the ads that sponsor online stores of counterfeit goods are soaring, particularly in the fashion and luxury sectors. And the first case of mistrust towards the e-commerce giant, Amazon, comes.

The Birkenstock case

Birkenstock already from January 2017 had stopped sales via Amazon in the US. Now, from 1 January 2018, it also abandons the European market. The German brand had asked Amazon to work hard to stop the sale of the fakes. In the fall of 2016, the big e-commerce business said it wanted to launch a series of initiatives to combat counterfeiting, imposing on sellers the obligation to prove that they have the authorization of the owners of the brands. Obviously something has continued to fail and Birkenstock has decided to leave definitively. For the first time, a manufacturer shows the loss of confidence in a platform that has a good reputation among consumers. But beware, the brand – which has been producing footwear since 1774 – does not renounce e-commerce, continuing to sell its shoes online through its proprietary portal, which also has an Italian declination.

Birkenstock leaves Amazon

Counterfeiting in all online marketplaces

Birkenstock is not the only one to complain that fake products are sold online. And not the first time that a marketplace is accused for similar reasons. The eBay auction giant over the years has been at the center of various legal actions promoted by prestigious brands, including LOral. In favor of the latter, which challenged eBay to have responsibility for violating online trademarks and not to take sufficient measures to limit the acts of infringement, the European Court of Justice ruled in 2011, clarifying that the manager of the platform can be called to his own responsibility, when he allows the sale of counterfeit products. Even the Chinese Alibaba has been at the center of various controversies and has declared its good intentions against the counterfeiters. At the end of November 2017, the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris, accepting the requests of the Lafuma furniture factory – which reported too many fakes sold through the platform – ordered Alibaba to recognize its responsibilities as a content provider. In the same days, on the occasion of Black Friday, a group of companies wrote to the president of the European Commission to raise awareness of the problem of counterfeiting consumer products and ask for a strengthening of the community legislative framework. In short, as with traditional shops, It is very important to carefully choose the place to shop online. Even an e-commerce site must comply with the obligations established by law.

The problem in numbers

Forged trademarks and counterfeit products: a survey by the Chamber of Deputies (March 2017) quantified the problem. In our country there are 19 million consumers who buy online, compared to 40,000 businesses that sell on the web. In 2016, compared to the 14,000 billion euros of GDP in the European Union, 5% was produced by online commerce. A value destined to grow by 50% in just a few years. And if Italy has only 3% of the total EU e-commerce, it can still boast an estimated value in goods and services purchased in 2016 of around 16 billion euros. At the same time, connected illegal activities are on the increase: online counterfeiting grows 15.6% worldwide every year. With a cost per economy estimated at 1,800 billion dollars.