Watchdog buys counterfeit goods from eBay's 'most trusted' sellers
Watchdog, Tuesday 7 November 2006, 7pm, BBC One
BBC One's Watchdog has discovered that some of the sellers that eBay calls its most reliable are peddling counterfeit goods - and says the company needs to do more to protect customers from being conned.
An investigation by the long-running consumer series has discovered a number of eBay's power sellers - described by the company as the "pillars of the eBay community"- are able to sell fake goods while claiming that they are authentic.
Among the products bought by the programme's researchers were:
Counterfeit Prada shoes sold as authentic. The real shoes would cost around £190 but a £40 bid for a pair of "genuine" new ones was successful
Two bogus Christian Dior bags. Sold as 100% brand new and authentic, for £75. Though the bags appeared to be bought from different sellers, in fact they were from the same one. These were the worst copies the programme obtained: the detail was shoddy, and they were stuffed with Thai newspapers - even though the genuine company is based in France. And the supposed authentication cards had identical serial numbers.
A realistic copy of the highly sought-after Adidas Y-3 trainers. Small details revealed these to be fake: no shoe should have the same number, but these did.
A fake but supposedly genuine Chloe bag. A good copy, again small details (like the workmanship on the padlock and clasp) and its colour gave it away.
eBay says counterfeit goods are not allowed. But several big name manufacturers feel the online marketplace - the most visited commercial website in the UK - isn't doing enough to police the problem.
Although eBay does run a system for monitoring counterfeit goods, the onus is on genuine brands to alert them of the ones to remove.
And when eBay does take down adverts for fake goods, it is easy for the traders caught out to do exactly the same again using a different name.
Watchdog will also include footage of a raid by police and Trading Standards at the premises of an eBay trader alleged to be selling counterfeit goods.
Ruth Taylor, a Trading Standards Investigator from North Yorkshire, says she has concerns about how easy it is to sell fakes on eBay - and how fast the company responds.
The programme's editor, Rob Unsworth, said: "Raids at taxpayers' expense mean we're all paying the cost of fraud on eBay - even if we've never shopped there.
"Fake goods described as genuine were easy for us to find. But somehow eBay keeps missing them.
"Customers who think they're getting the real thing are being ripped off - and often it's by sellers who seem to have eBay's seal of approval."
Mike Roylance of Adidas said: "There are some really serious criminals behind this. We're seeing people going out to the Far East to bring containers in just to sell on eBay. They're making millions - it's big, big business."
eBay's security relies heavily on buyers gauging for themselves the trustworthiness of a seller by choosing ones with high levels of positive feedback left by other customers.
But the feedback system is easy to cheat - a former eBay employee gave the Watchdog team simple instructions on how to do it.
All the power sellers Watchdog bought from had high feedback scores - though when that feedback was examined in detail there were angry messages from customers furious they had been ripped off. These were not spotted by eBay.
Since hearing the programme's findings, eBay has taken down ads from the sellers identified as selling counterfeit goods.