LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The online shopping website Amazon.com is popular for discounted items, but it’s also a marketplace for knockoffs.
“We think the amount of fraud and counterfeit goods that were sold to consumers was between $110 and $140 million just this past holiday season,” James Lee of the Consumer Fraud Center in Santa Monica said. “We expect if nothing is done, that number is probably going to double by next year.”
Sandra Torres of Canyon Country is among the hundreds of customers who bought a counterfeit version of a hair straightening iron called the InStyler.
“I put it on my hair and immediately it was really hot. It started sizzling my hair,” Torres said. “I could hear, and I could see the smoke coming out of it.”
InStyler, which is based in Culver City, brought a lawsuit against Amazon in 2011 to stop selling the device — real or fake.
“This is not just like a handbag. This thing can be dangerous,” one of the creators of InStyler, David Richmond, said.
The attorney representing the maker of the straightener, Tom Peistrup, alleges more than 20,000 knockoffs have been sold through Amazon.
Lee compares the company’s marketplace to the Wild West.
“You don’t know what you’re getting,” he said. “There’s no law, there’s no system of justice.”
Lee said the manufacturers of knockoffs, in places such as China, can bypass customs and border security agents by sending goods directly to Amazon’s warehouses.
He’s seen knockoffs of prescription drugs, popular headphones such as Beats by Dr. Dre and even designer shoes.
InStyler is working to find Amazon customers who bought fake devices and replace them with authentic ones.
Torres recently received hers.
“I know I’m not going to buy anything from Amazon anymore, it’s ridiculous,” she said.
CBS2 reached out to Amazon for comment but there has been no response.