Google and other search engines are putting consumers at risk of buying fake children’s toys and white goods by refusing to remove these websites in their search results.
One counterfeit website based in China that was identified by Incopro listed four brands – Whirlpool, Samsung, Kenmore and GE – in its page title, causing deliberate consumer confusion and helping it to appear higher up in search engine results.
When conducting a search using these search terms on Google.com, four out of five searches led to the infringing website appearing on the first page of results.
Counterfeit water filters fail to remove harmful lead and live cysts from household water and can introduce harmful compounds, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).
In the wake of the demise of US retail giant Toys “R” Us, e-commerce sales have been on an astronomic rise, yet its regulation continues to be neglected by brands and platforms alike. A swathe of fake reviews litter sites, counterfeit products continue to feature highly and sponsored social adverts go live unchecked.
However, perhaps the biggest perpetrator of neglecting online regulation and safety are search engines. In the children’s products category, a third of search results on Google for a “Comotomo teether” featured potentially harmful products that misuse the Comotomo trademark.
Google appears to be exploiting a loophole in the law which means that search engines are not obliged to remove links that lead to platforms displaying items that infringe intellectual property rights or trademarks, essentially websites selling fake goods. The loophole creates enormous difficulty for brand owners looking to protect their rights and consumer safety, around the world.
Simon Baggs, CEO and Co-founder of Incopro, explains: "When Incopro notifies Facebook, Amazon or eBay that there is a product being sold through these sites that is fake or infringes IP in some way, the companies take action to remove the offer for sale from their platform,” Baggs continues "With counterfeit trade worth more than $500bn a year, it is time search engines played their part in putting a stop to the fakers, rather than encouraging them to proliferate through inaction.”
In the white goods sector, a search for refrigerator filters using established reference terms repeatedly directed consumers towards a website selling counterfeit goods. White goods counterfeits can cause irreparable damage to expensive appliances. Even worse, appliance failure can put consumer health and safety at grave risk--causing electrical fires and deadly gas leaks.
Leveraging their technology to examine millions of webpages, Incopro found that in more than a quarter of cases, counterfeit goods were featured in the top three search results, which studies have shown is where the majority of visitors go.
With this in mind, Incopro is calling on search engines to do more to protect consumers. Dangerous counterfeit products whether electrical or children’s toys are easily accessed through listed online searches.