MUA MAG Article #2
The Financial and personal toll of knockoff cosmetics
Counterfeit cosmetics have become one of the cosmetics industry's biggest headache. A tidal wave of bogus products are flooding the marketplace, and it seems no one is immune. M.A.C, Benefit, Nars, Urban Decay and Bobbi Brown cosmetics are just a few of the top brands that have been knocked off.
Diversion is another problem plaguing in the industry. It's a term used to describe any product offered for sale at an outlet that is not authorized by the manufacture. Diverted products may be counterfeit, but they can also be diluted, contaminated or expired versions of the originals. Companies are concern because they have no quality control over what is sold. The best-case scenario is that performance of the diverted products will be substandard. The worst-case scenario is that these items could contain ingredients hazardous to one's health. L'Oreal Professional has devoted a page on its website to this issue.
"Counterfeit products are a major concern of Urban Decay," says company treasure John Ferrari. "There are many well known sites such as Alibaba, eBay and Amazon that sell unofficial products and we do our best to delist them as quickly as possible. There are also smaller websites and flea markets sellers posing as authorized retailers selling counterfeit products."
Law enforcement agencies point to China, Hong Kong, Jordan, India and Malaysia as the primary source for the phonies. Its hard to determine exactly how much product is out there, but Havocscope, a website that reports on the global black market, puts the losses due to counterfeit cosmetics at more than $3 billion a year.
It's a serious enough problem in the United States that the department of home land security, the FBI and local police are all involved in the fight. Homeland security reports its seizures alone totaled $188 million in 2010.
And, unlike imitation clothing, cosmetics fakes can pose a serious health danger. In a 2014 report, the FBI warned that government and industry testing has uncovered such carcinogens as arsenic, beryllium and cadmium in seized counterfeits. High levels of aluminum and dangerous levels of bacteria were also found. London's Guardian newspaper published a story this past May reporting that London police found cyanide, rat droppings and human urine when it ran tests on imitation cosmetics. Aside from the "ew" factor, the products have been known to cause acne, psoriasis, rashes and eye infections.
Just this past July, a women in New Port Richey FL, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for selling bogus M.A.C products. Tina Oleszczuk was convicted of buying imitations from China and then offering them as real M.A.C products from her home-based company. Cosmetics Delights LLC, as well as on eBay. The judge also ruled that Oleszczuk should pay restitution to M.A.C - the total amount of the sale invoices seized when the arrest was made.
Well aware of the impact this problem poes, cosmetic companies are at the forefront of the battle.
"We are deeply concerned about the issue and are committed to protecting our consumer from counterfeit products and the potential dangers that they pose" said M.A.C Cosmetics spokesperson Amara Malik in an email statement. "Consumers should only shop at our authorized retail partners, our M.A.C. freestanding stores and maccosmetics.com to ensure the M.A.C. Cosmetics are real and meet the quality and safety standards that we promise.
Believing customers awareness is key to stemming the tide, M.A.C. dedicates a section of its website to counterfeit education. Here, it lists where it does and doesn't offer its production and provides instructions as to how its costumers can report suspected counterfeits.
Urban Decay points to online sites especially small market-places and maketplaces registered in foreign courtiers, as its biggest concern. Urban Decay's Ferrai indicates the company is most succedful fighting Internet offenders in the Unites States. He attributes to a high level or cooperation with the FBI, local police and customers.
"There are also strict standards for delisting of Internet content that uses are trademarks without authorizing." he adds "The real challenge is in foreign markets where these laws and infrastructure do not exsit yet."
The company's cooperation security team is very affgressfuly going after unautherized channels peddling Urban Decay replicas in both the U.S. and abroad.
"Online, we used to service called MarkMonitor that delists tens of thousands of postings on eBay and Alibaba in cases where they are either selling suspected counterfeit products are using are trademarks," continues Farrari. "We also conduct criminal raids of manufacture and distributors of counterfite products here and abroad and have successfully sized millions of dollars' worth of fake merchandize.
Efforts are also focused on spreading the word to only buy from Urban Decay authorized retailers: Sephora, Sephora inside JCPenny, Macy's, Ultra Beauty, Nordstom, Belk and HauteLook. Ferrari believes that one of the best ways to combat fakes is though education. "Some consumers are aware but others just think they are getting a good deal," he says. "There is more work to be done about the problem as it poses a serious health risk and injuries to our reputation."
---- Chris Koseluk
Taken from Make-up Artist Magazine issue 116
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