Thai police have dismantled a Panasonic counterfeiting ring and recovered over 82,000 fake batteries bearing Panasonic's trademark. The seizure is the largest to date for the brand in Southeast Asia, with the batteries intended for sales on various eCommerce platforms. The raid, which took place at a warehouse outside Bangkok in May, was the result of several months of close collaboration between Panasonic's brand team and Lazada's intellectual property rights protection team, which facilitated information sharing and provided evidence to the relevant Thai authorities.
As batteries are often classified as consumables, they are regularly overlooked as products that can be counterfeited, despite the risk that fake batteries are highly hazardous and can cause serious damage to a variety of household appliances.
In this instance, Panasonic's team discovered a seller whose products turned out to be counterfeits when the brand conducted a test purchase. To support Panasonic's investigation, Lazada provided them with information on the seller's digital footprint, which assisted in pinpointing the suspect's whereabouts, leading to the eventual seizure of the batteries.
Julawut Kanaruk, deputy director of Panasonic Management (Thailand) said: "Panasonic has a zero-tolerance policy toward counterfeit products, as they undermine the Panasonic brand by betraying customers' trust."
"We aim to eliminate counterfeit sellers who target unsuspecting consumers. Panasonic appreciates working with eCommerce platforms such as Lazada that share common goals such as ensuring consumer protection," Julawut said.
Alan Chan, Lazada Group chief risk officer, said "Lazada prides itself on being a trusted and safe platform for consumers and sellers alike. Our platform governance team work tirelessly to uphold these high standards, collaborating with rights owners like Panasonic and law enforcement agencies."
The raid follows a memorandum of understanding on the protection of intellectual property rights on the Internet, led by Thailand's Department of Intellectual Property, Department of Business Development and Department of International Trade Promotion, which was signed by Lazada and various rights holders' representatives in January 2021. Over the past 18 months, Lazada has worked closely with rights owners and authorities in Thailand that resulted in more than USD1.5 million worth of counterfeit goods being seized.
Counterfeit products being sold online is a common place phenomenon. Online marketplace Carousell also launched a dedicated platform to tackle counterfeit listings and protect rights holders. Called Carousell Rights Owners Programme (CROP), it was done in collaboration with brand partners in a bid to provide assurance to both brands and users to deal with greater confidence in the marketplace. The new platform CROP will allow selected brand partners to directly remove listings of brand replicas from Carousell with zero processing time. According to Carousell, this tightens the content moderation process by reducing the time required for take downs.
Meanwhile, video and live streaming platform Kuaishou also said it stop selling smartphones from 13 brands after a vendor on the platform was reported to be selling knock-off products for sale. It was also reported that more than 20,000 phones had been sold by the vendor. Nonetheless, buyers quickly realised that their phones were not what they expected after checking the product identification number with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the Chinese government.
Imitation products or even counterfeits are not uncommon on eCommerce sites in many markets. However, continuous counterfeit issues could undermine customers' faith in the platforms and marketplaces should appropriate steps not be taken.
Kyriakos Zannikos, Digital Commerce Intelligence's founder and CEO told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that such incidents will no doubt incite short term fear. However, in the bigger scheme of things, this will probably help educate consumers to be more pragmatic and careful when buying more products from certain vendors.
Although buyers need to spend time and effort to learn more about the products, unless there is a seamlessness in the buying process and education process, customers might turn to competitor channels. "This could seriously affect consumer purchase confidence, especially for mid- and high-end users located in first- and second-tier cities who pursue high quality products," Ashley Galina Dudarenok, founder of ChoZan and Alarice.