Online shoppers cautioned against counterfeit products

With the number of independent third-party sellers surging on e-commerce sites, counterfeit and substandard products are increasingly being marketed in the Kingdom.

Saudi Gazette

The growing popularity of online shopping is accompanied by a simultaneous surge in the spread of substandard and counterfeit products.

Naushad Abubaker, an Indian worker in the Kingdom, saw a lucrative discount offer on a smart watch from a popular shopping site and he jumped to grab the opportunity.

However, Abubaker was shocked when he received the parcel, which contained a fake product. He immediately returned the item and received a refund.

Another customer who ordered a bottle of perfume at a heavy discount also received a fake product. He decided not to use the perform fearing its adverse effects, but he opted to keep silent instead of returning the item to the seller.

These are not one-off cases. With the number of independent third-party sellers surging on e-commerce sites, the number of counterfeit items has also increased.

The Ministry of Commerce and Investment cautioned the public against the sale and marketing of counterfeit and imitation products through shopping websites and social media networking sites.

The ministry has closed down at least 18 online outlets including websites and social media accounts since the beginning of this year. Last month alone it closed 10 online platforms. A total of 55 online retail platforms were shut down last year.

According to a ministry statement issued last weekend, these bogus online platforms had more than 300,000 followers.

The ministry has been working to safeguard customer rights through its “Maroof” initiative for online trade. Maroof conducts regular assessment of e-business operations in the Kingdom. A total of 27,000 business firms consisting of 15 various commercial activities are registered with Maroof.

The ministry urged consumers to purchase only from e-stores registered with Maroof to ensure the products sold are genuine.

The sale of counterfeit goods through websites and social networking sites is contrary to commercial fraud control and marketing regulations. Those who found guilty of such violations will face punishments of up to three years in prison, SR1 million in fine and deportation from the country in the case of expatriates.

The ministry stressed that there would be no negligence in applying penalties on distributors of counterfeit and fraudulent goods through social networking sites and other online forums. It called on consumers to cooperate by reporting violators through its call center number 1900.

As part of its efforts to clamp down on counterfeit products in the market, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) recently carried out inspection raids on facilities manufacturing and selling perfumes in Riyadh.

The SFDA inspectors closed down 35 outlets that were found to be selling counterfeit perfumes, in addition to three manufacturing facilities. It also seized 192,398 perfume bottles besides 1,245 kilograms of raw materials used for their production.