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[February 2014]

Sneakers purchased through internet shopping which appears to be fake brand name goods

The following shows a case where a pair of sneakers bought through an online store in a cybermall seemed counterfeit, so the consumer wanted to return the product and get the money back, but the seller rejected his request.

Details of the inquiry

I ordered a pair of brand-name sneakers through an online store (hereinafter called "the seller") in a cybermall and used my credit card for paying for the product and postage. According to the expression on the site, it seemed that the business was operated in Japan, but the product was sent from China. The product was roughly sewed and the brand logo on it looked a bit different from that on photos on the site. I suspected the product was counterfeit. I sent the seller an e-mail conveying that I wanted to return the product because it was not authentic, but my request was rejected. Then, I asked the cybermall operator via e-mail to examine the product, but the cybermall operator just replied "Please talk with the seller" and did not help me. I also phoned the cybermall operator, but they told that they could not deal with the matter. They didn't even examine the product. I cannot understand why they don't respond to the problem at all. I want to return the product and get my money back.

(man in his 60s, salary earner)

Summarized outcome

After receiving this inquiry, the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan (hereinafter called "NCAC") had materials including photos of the product sent to NCAC from the inquirer and heard reasons why he thought the product was fake.

NCAC contacted the Japanese brand holder (trademark holder) of the sneakers (hereinafter called "the brand holder"). They replied as follows: "We cannot determine that the product is fake just based on the inquirer's information. The sneakers are manufactured in several countries. There are some different patterns. Therefore, each manufacturer issues a certificate of authenticity for the products in the country of manufacture. Why not ask the seller how they confirm such a certificate?".

The seller claimed as follows: "We state on the website that "These products are parallel imports from several foreign countries, which a bit different from the Japanese specification. Design and color thereof might differ depending on the country and period of manufacture". We purchase products from reliable dealers abroad". Then, NCAC asked the seller to show "a certificate of authenticity for the products" which the brand holder had mentioned, but they neither gave us clear explanation nor showed a certificate.

NCAC told the cybermall operator what NCAC had heard from the brand holder and the seller. Then, NCAC asked the cybermall operator to examine the matter, explaining that similar complaints were on the rise like "I purchased a product through an online store which seemed to operate in Japan, but the product was delivered from China. The product delivered appears to be counterfeit and I want to return it". In response, the cybermall operator replied as follows: "When entering into a contract for selling on our cybermall, each seller promises to deal only in authentic products, so we believe the promise. We will confirm the seller if the sneakers are authentic. If they say "yes", we cannot take any further action. We know the high frequency of problems related to fake brand-name products".

At a later date, the cybermall operator informed NCAC that they received a reply from the seller that the product was authentic. NCAC replied that NCAC did not think that the cybermall operator sufficiently examined the matter because they did not check a certificate. NCAC also communicated that the cybermall operator needed to positively take measures to provide a safe platform for trading in light of the high frequency of the similar troubles, and then requested the cybermall operator to take a further action on the above problem. However, the operator told they would not take any further action. NCAC again requested the seller and the cybermall operator to take appropriate actions, but neither of them gave a response satisfactory to the inquirer. Even worse, it was difficult to collect further information to determine whether or not the product delivered was counterfeit.

NCAC communicated the inquirer the above circumstances as well as that it was not possible for NCAC to determine the authenticity of the product. The inquirer told that he would give up getting the money back and would not ask the credit card company for a response.


Recently, NCAC receives more and more inquiries and complaints questioning that products purchased through internet shopping might be fake. Although there are some organizations which determine whether or not brand name products meet a relevant standard based on their individual standards, only the brand holder (trademark holder) can determine the authenticity of the product concerned. It is difficult, however, to obtain information on the authenticity from the brand holder. Therefore, it is extremely hard to achieve a fundamental solution.

In this case, the inquirer used the online store in the cybermall website, so NCAC asked the cybermall operator for cooperation, but the operator just asked the seller whether the product was authentic or not. The cybermall operator told that they believed the promise of the seller to deal only in authentic products when entering into the contract, but it is questionable if this method works for preventing troubles, considering the actual increase of troubles. It cannot be said that the cybermall operator is trying to provide a safe platform for trading. More effective measures are required to be taken.

Prior to making a purchase through internet shopping, it is essential to confirm the address of the store, name of a person in charge, telephone number, conditions for product returns, reputation and performance of the cybermall and the online shop, etc. and carefully consider whether or not to buy in order to avoid troubles. It is often difficult to get your money back after you are involved in a trouble. Internet shopping is convenient, but it requires cautious use.

According to recent inquiries related to internet shopping, more and more online stores require customers to prepay through a bank transfer instead of paying through a credit card. In case of non-delivery or delivery of an obvious imitation, payment in advance makes it more difficult to redress damages.

In addition to the above key points in using internet shopping, particular attention should be given to payment in advance through a bank transfer, which more frequently triggers troubles.