Reality stars Kylie and Kendall Jenner were two of the number of influencers BBC Click has found out to be endorsing the sale of fake Apple AirPods on Instagram. Both siblings have a combined following of 322 million followers on the social media platform. Although Apple feels that such imitation products may infringe its intellectual property rights, it is not taking action against the Jenners. In the past, they have taken action against influencers who were endorsing fake AirPods. When Kylie and Kendall were contacted by BBC to comment, they did not respond.
BBC Click’s investigation revealed that a number of social media influencers were endorsing knock-off Apple Airpods and Apple Watches. The influences do not store the goods with them but they promote links to sites where anonymous sellers deliver the goods directly from China. The goods may look similar to genuine products at first look but feature different brand names on their packaging and has a bad user experience.
Under UK law, promotion of the goods can be regarded as being a copyright and trademark infringement if the fake products are similar enough to the genuine goods. According to the national coordinator for the UK’s National Trading Standards eCrime Team, if influencers were found endorsing fake products, the first step would be that they would be informed of consumer laws but if they go on, formal action would be taken.
“We would be concerned that some consumers, swayed by the power of social influencers, and the overall look and feel of the websites, might be misled into thinking they are buying genuine Apple AirPods,” Mike Andrews said.
Social media platform Instagram informed BBC that influencers must adhere to local laws and vet brands before agreeing to paid partnerships. Drop shippers are the vendors behind the goods and they are an intermediary who does not make or even see the goods they sell and uses influencers to promote the goods. Drop shippers source their goods from online Chinese marketplaces and have them shipped directly to consumers.
‘You can have a massive business without ever going to China,” Kevin David, a drop shipper based in Miami told Click. “I’ve personally sent millions of dollars to China. I’ve gotten millions and millions of dollars of products and I’ve never even been to China.”He added: “Those Airpods, some of my personal friends make hundreds of thousands a month selling those.”
Although drop shipping is legal, it is open to abuse with reports of, goods not being shipped, refunds not being given and sites suddenly being shut down. “All you need is an internet connection and a website and you’re ready to go,” commented Sanchit Jain, an e-commerce analyst, from the consultancy Ender Analysis.”The downside is that people get conned, don’t get what they paid for and are misled. It really is the Wild West, especially because you are easily able to create a new store as and when you please.”
Apple shared with BBC that it was aware that drop shipping contributed to counterfeit sales and allowed bad actors to remain anonymous.
It added that its teams “are continually adapting to counterfeiters’ latest tactics”. /TISG