What is the essential function of a brand? As any IP lawyer will tell you, it is to reassure you of the origin of the product. With this in mind, online marketplace eBay has launched a new service aimed at stamping out fake high-end fashion on its website – with a surprising twist.
Brand-new eBay Authenticate comprises a network of “professional authenticators”; for a small fee (paid by the seller) they will check your purchase first to ensure it’s not counterfeit. Listings that will automatically be authenticated will be clearly identified to users, and a user can also request authentication themselves, again for a fee. The programme complements other initiatives by eBay such as VeRO, a “notice and takedown” system which lets IP owners flag unscrupulous sellers, and the existing authentication as part of eBay’s lesser-known valet service.
So what’s the twist? Well, if a user of the service ends up receiving a non-authentic product, they will automatically be refunded double the purchase price. Pick up a fake Valentino My Rockstud crocodile tote and you could be in line for a hefty pay out.
On a global level, eBay’s move has both legal and commercial benefits. A few years ago saw a multi-country dispute with L’Oreal – the ubiquitous beauty company complained that eBay was profiting from listing counterfeits of its perfumes. The results in each country were mixed, but the real significance was when the CJEU ruled that eBay could be held to account for these listings. Other brands have pushed this even further, with Cartier and Montblanc leading the way in actually having the courts block websites offering counterfeits.
But this Fashionista thinks the move makes business sense too. Fashion is huge for eBay, and more than half of e-commerce globally is for fashion related products. But eBay has lagged behind on cracking down on counterfeits, with specialists like Vestiaire Collective springing up, offering authenticated high-end products. eBay Authenticate, along with the generous compensation system, is designed to give consumers confidence and take back market share. After all, if you’re spending thousands on the latest must-have, a quick check by a professional to ensure it’s genuine seems like a wise precaution.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the program is the self-specified check, and what the lowest price consumers are willing to pay to insure themselves against fakes; in a year’s time or so, eBay will have a totally new insight into consumer behaviour.
At the moment Authenticate is only for fashion items, but there are plans to roll out into other categories. The service launches later this year in the United States.
Post by Sam Fisher