Amazon LogoHow does Amazon India deal with fake products? A couple of days ago, we were alerted about an allegedly fake Xiaomi Power Bank being sold on Amazon India, with verified buyers writing reviews indicating that the product being sold is fake.  (Hat Tip: NT Balanarayan)

What’s worth noting is that this product is a part of the “Fulfilled by Amazon” program, which means that it is being warehoused with Amazon India, and delivered by them. Given that fake goods are being sold online, and brands are warning consumers against purchasing products online (details here), the fact that a product is being Fulfilled by Amazon would make a consumer more confident about purchasing it.

Ashish Jain wrote in his review: “The product I received is fake. No 20 digit code for verification and several other conclusive signs of its being a fake product. I Xiaomi India customer care and inquire about their product generally. I was told by them that every original product has 20 digit verification code which shows its originality.”  Other comments by verified buyers: herehere and here.

We wrote to Amazon India, asking them three questions:

1. How does Amazon India ensure that products being sold on its marketplace by sellers are genuine? In your statement to us, you claimed with certainty that “All products sold on Amazon.in through our sellers are genuine.” So do you inspect each product shipped for whether it is genuine?
2. What recourse do buyers have if they are, as it is alleged in this case, sold products that are fake?
3. What action are you planning to take against sellers of fake products, like it is alleged in this case? Please share details of action taken in the past, in case there have been any such instances.

Given Amazon’s response to us (below), it appears that:

– Amazon doesn’t check products for authenticity prior to shipment, whether Fulfilled by Amazon or not. It does random checks via mystery shopping and for complaints about fake products, apart from processes that they’re not willing to explain (“we do not break open the seal of the products we have mechanisms in our FCs to ensure that the products are genuine”)
– It has transferred liability to the seller. It offers buyers 100% purchase protection through an A-to-Z Guarantee. It works with sellers to offer a refund or replacement with a genuine products, if the product is not Fulfilled by Amazon. In case of Fulfilled by Amazon, it offers buyers a replacement.
– Amazon delists sellers, if they’re selling fake products.

Our take: We’re not sure of how effective Amazon’s processes are in identifying complaints in reviews on the site: The first mention of the product being fake was October 6th 2014, and despite subsequent comments from buyers, it took an email from us for them to investigate the seller. Also, note that the only action against the seller that Amazon has mentioned is delisting of the seller. So unless someone complains, by chance a mystery shopper buys the product, or Amazon’s (apparently slow) processes figure things out, the buyer can keep selling? Something here needs fixing.

***

Amazon’s Response

At the outset, all sellers listing their products on Amazon.in are required to enter an agreement to list and sell only genuine products. We further commit to ensuring a 100% Purchase Protection for the shopping done on Amazon.in through our A-to-Z Guarantee.

With regard to your query on how do we check?

There are two ways sellers can list and sell products on amazon.in. There are sellers who list, pack, ship and deliver directly to customers. In these cases we don’t have the chance to review the products. But should a customer, right owners, brand owners for Trademark and IP infringements bring the complaint to our notice, we will work with the seller to ensure that he either does a full refund or sends a genuine product to the customer.

We also have in place a mystery shopping for these sellers on the platform who list, pack and ship products on their own and we scrub our platform periodically to test random sample products that are prone to counterfeit and fake complaints and take action on the sellers.

If the seller has opted to list on amazon.in and uses our Fulfillment By Amazon service, then while we do not break open the seal of the products we have mechanisms in our FCs to ensure that the products are genuine. In an unfortunate situation, should a customer contact us regarding a fake product delivered even via our FBA service, we will take back the fake product and replace it with a genuine product.

Additionally we have metrics in place to record counterfeit complaints, measure the size of the problem and mechanisms in place to control it, basis the learning of our global counterparts to further reduce the inconvenience caused to our customers.

In either case, if we determine that the seller violated the agreement to sell genuine product, we delist them from the platform. There have been several instances where sellers have been delisted.

From our recent Consumer Protection series:

What consumer brands like HP, Dell, Nikon, Lenovo, Gionee and others are saying about online warranties
We asked Amazon, Snapdeal, Ebay, Flipkart, Indiatimes Shopping, Shopclues and Infibeam about warranties on goods sold via their sites