Tips for Consumers: Counterfeit Merchandise

Tips for Consumers
Counterfeit Merchandise

Imported merchandise fills the marketplace in the Hagerstown area. We buy goods from all over the world and most are of high quality. But we can also be cheated by counterfeit products that cost too much and fall apart. Look-alike and knock off products, such as cosmetics, baby formula, batteries, cigarettes, auto parts, and pharmaceuticals can jeopardize consumer health and safety. And organized criminal groups and terrorist organizations may be involved in some counterfeiting schemes.
Some consumers may unwittingly purchase counterfeit products, but others intentionally buy them without recognizing the consequences. These can be serious. Knock off perfumes have been found containing urine and counterfeit children's clothing may not be flame retardant. Counterfeit auto parts like brake pads have led to serious injuries. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals-perhaps 10% of all drugs sold-can cause illness or death.
Another form of counterfeiting occurs when legitimate products like computer software or hardware are sold by unauthorized sources. The manufacturer of that product is under no obligation to provide a warranty so the buyer has no recourse if quality or service problems arise.
Here are some BBB tips to help avoid counterfeits:
* Deal with reputable companies. Make sure the item you are purchasing is the real thing. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer and verify which vendors are authorized to sell their brand.
* Look for blurred or torn labels; misspelled or altered product names; unannounced changes in product content, color, smell or packaging; missing codes, 800 consumer numbers or trademarks; or products lacking the usual guarantees and/or licensing agreements.
* See if the packaging or inside directions are in English or entirely in a foreign language. Items smuggled into the country may have no warranty coverage.
* Avoid buying look-alike products from street vendors, at flea markets, home parties or online auction houses. Knock-offs are typically of low quality since counterfeiters cut corners to lower costs.
* Trust your instincts. If it looks counterfeit, do not buy!

Always contact the BBB to check out legitimate businesses. Visit their web site, www.baltimore.bbb.org or give them a call 24 hours a day at 410-347-3992. If you have a complaint, use the web site or write them at: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore, MD 21230. Their office serves Hagerstown and all of Washington County.