Counterfeit Products Sold On Amazon Hurt Small, Big Businesses Alike

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — When Amazon picked up the Forearm Forklift, the owner, Mark Loprieato, thought his Baldwin Park business would be lifted into the multimillionaires club.

But instead of a sales boom, it was a sales bust.

Loprieato says his product suddenly started getting bad reviews. So he looked closer at the listings on Amazon and discovered it was not his listing.

People were ripping off his product, not one but dozens of fake listings on Amazon using the Forearm Forklift name, logo, even photos.

“We rate every single strap at 1,200 pounds,” said Loprieato, looking at a counterfeit of his product. “This is rated at only 200 pounds; that’s it.”

He says there are so many fake Forearm Forklift listings on Amazon that he now has full-time employees weeding them out and dealing with Amazon’s bureaucracy to get them taken down.

“It’s devastating, and I also paid a lot of money on advertising. They just steal the name,” he said. “We have to find them deep in their website, report them, more days go by and then they may or may not take them down.”

But it’s not just the little guy. Apple, Birkenstock, even Mercedes-Benz have warned about fakes on Amazon.

The consumer group The Counterfeit Report says it’s found more than 21,000 pirated products on the website, including items bearing fake Underwriters Laboratories ratings, which are only given to products that have passed rigorous safety standards.

Finding counterfeit or dangerous products on Amazon wasn’t difficult: CBS2’s Cristy Fajardo searched for a portable baby car safety seat and bought one.

Two days later, it arrived in an Amazon Prime box from the distribution center in Las Vegas, but the product was made in China.

Car seat safety expert James DeCarli later determined the seat was missing the labels, expiration date and manufacturer information required by federal law.

In other words, it isn’t legal to use in any U.S. state.

Critics say the problem started when Amazon opened its site to third-party sellers, charging them for listings, warehousing and delivering products on its marketplace.

But the counterfeit report says Amazon isn’t doing enough to vet them. Some are legit, while others are not, including sham sellers from overseas out of reach of U.S. law.

The online giant has repeatedly argued it’s not responsible for its third-party sellers, but said it has zero tolerance for counterfeiters and added in a statement, “Amazon is investing heavily in protecting the integrity of the Amazon marketplace for consumers, sellers and manufacturers.”

As for Loprieato’s copmany, he says his struggles with Amazon and the counterfeit listings are crushing his business.

“We went from 52 employees to under two dozen and millions dollars in lost sales,” he said.

And he believes unless lawmakers act, Amazon will continue to sell them out to ring up more sales.

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