Is fake the new real? Living in a fake society – UK

Is fake the new real? Living in a fake society – UK

Fake goods, fake news, fake social media accounts. We are living in an era where the onus is on individuals to understand what is fake and what is real.

An Incopro Consumer Research eBook

Fake goods, fake news, fake social media accounts. We are living in an era where the onus is on individuals to understand what is fake and what is real.

Can we tell the difference? Have we lost trust in everything we see online – or are we becoming more sophisticated in the way we interact with brands, marketplaces, and social media? Do we understand the impact of fake goods and fake news on the wider society? And, if so, how is that influencing our attitudes to counterfeit goods and our online activity?

Recent research undertaken for Incopro by Sapio Research across the UK assessed the impact of today’s fake society, revealing how it has affected our trust as individuals, how we are influenced online, and whether we know – or care – that we are being tricked.

Key findings

22% of UK consumers have been fooled into buying at least one counterfeit product in the past 12 months
26% of those who did get fooled never received a refund from an online marketplace despite reporting the seller
When asked which fakes pose the biggest threat to society online 44% said fake pharmaceuticals
Almost one in two UK consumers (44%) have lost trust in a brand after unintentionally purchasing a counterfeit of one of their products online

Rip Off Britain

22% of people were conned into buying fake goods over the past 12 months. Ripoffs are endemic, from social media to online marketplaces. And with individuals increasingly buying higher value items online, the consumers are paying the price: over the past year, the median amount lost by UK consumers to mistakenly buying counterfeit goods was £49.

Unfortunately, a significant proportion of this money is lost; over a quarter (26%) have never received a refund for these purchases. This has increased from 2018 where around 21% of UK consumers said they had never received a refund after reporting counterfeit sellers to online marketplaces.

Have you ever received a refund after reporting a seller of counterfeit goods to the online marketplace?
44% of consumers surveyed confirm unknowingly buying counterfeits will result in a loss of trust with that brand

Counterfeits Damage Brands

For brands, this level of counterfeiting is a real concern: not only has a genuine sale been lost each time a consumer unknowingly buying a fake branded item, but just under half (44%) of consumers confirm the experience will result in a loss of trust with that brand.

Maybe even more concerning is the number of people knowingly buying fakes. Just under a fifth (19%) of people have intentionally opted for a counterfeit item and, of these, (37%) have bought more than three items in the past 12 months alone. Indeed, as fakes become more endemic, consumer attitudes and behaviour appear to be changing, with almost a third (31%) of consumers considering buying fake clothing, leather goods (28%), footwear (27%) and watches (26%).

Who do you trust?

The loss of trust is not limited to the brands – almost two thirds (65%) of consumers will lose trust in a marketplace after buying fake goods, just under half (49%) in search engines.

Yet just as consumers appear willing to buy fakes, their attitudes to and expectations of trust appears to be a fast-changing concept. While in the main it is still important for consumers that brands provide a true representation of themselves, almost a quarter (24%) don’t think it is important that online influencers/ celebrities provide a true representation. Interestingly this drops to 13% in the 18-24 age group, reflecting the demographic more likely to be influenced by celebrity culture.

Consumers’ own fake behaviour online is also on the rise – and has a direct impact on brand values and image. While most UK consumers (68%) do not engage in fake behaviours to impress their friends, 6% confirm they buy fake designer brands to look good and 5% knowingly lie to promote a product or brand. This intentional misrepresentation has a hugely damaging impact and further underlines the challenges facing brands in retaining control over consumer perception and the quality of digital experience.

Where is the Risk?

From voting behaviour onwards, the public’s awareness of fake news – and its impact – has been transformed over the past few years. Yet UK consumers are far more concerned about fake pharmaceuticals (44%) than fake news (13%).

However, there are several dangerous fake goods that consumers appear to have overlooked. Just 7% cite fake cosmetics as big threat – yet products have been found to contain toxic materials such as cyanide, arsenic, lead, mercury and, in some cases, even rat excrement. These harmful ingredients will cause skin irritation, rash or infection, and many are linked to a higher risk of cancer.
Just 7% cite fake car parts – yet the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) estimates that more than €2 billion is lost each year due to counterfeit tires and batteries being sold and offered for sale inside the EU. Counterfeit airbags, brake pads, seatbelts and tires do not adhere to stringent safety regulations and increase the risk of serious injury or death if the vehicle outfitted with them is involved in an accident.

As 15% said they would consider buying fake car parts, clearly the risk associated with this category is something that consumers need to better understand.

Marketplaces need to step up

People are trying to protect themselves from fake goods, fake news, fake society. But in turning to ‘trusted’ marketplaces to avoid fake goods (45%), and relying on customer reviews (41%), they are being let down. There is a huge industry dedicated to churning out fake customer reviews and marketplaces have well-documented challenges with fake goods – consumers are therefore extremely vulnerable.

Marketplaces are a hotbed of counterfeit activity: at any one time, thousands of listings containing counterfeits of a particular brand can be found across countless marketplaces, websites, and social media platforms. Marketplaces could and should be doing so much more to protect the consumers – rather than putting the onus on brands and their technology partners do identify the problem.


What you’ll learn in this report

  • The impact of counterfeit goods on brand reputation and consumer trust
  • Consumer habits in researching information and purchasing products online
  • Which parties consumers feel should be responsible for fighting against counterfeit goods
  • The reasons for purchasing counterfeit goods, both intentional and unintentional

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