FACEBOOK’s official Marketplace store has turned into a black market for counterfeit goods, The Sun can reveal.
Rogue traders are using the eBay-style feature to flog knock-off items, including designer clothes, expensive watches and football shirts.
The Sun found more than a dozen sellers using Facebook Marketplace to peddle “replica” items.
These included fake pairs of Christian Louboutin heels, and a Gucci jacket on sale for £40 (which would normally cost thousands of pounds).
One seller, who had been with the site since 2009, was flogging a counterfeit Audemars Piguet watch for £138.
Watches from the ritzy brand would typically cost anywhere from £5,000 to £250,000 and beyond.
Selling counterfeit items is against the law in the UK, as Facebook admits on its own site.
“It’s illegal to sell counterfeit items. Facebook doesn’t allow counterfeits to be sold on the platform,” the company explains.
Facebook describes a counterfeit good as a “knockoff or replica version of another company’s product”.
“It usually copies the trademark (brand name or logo) and/or distinctive features in order to imitate a genuine product,” Facebook says.
Despite Facebook’s claims to block the sale of phoney goods however, it’s incredibly easy to find counterfeit items on Marketplace.
A simple search for “replica” items brings up countless results, with sellers using Facebook’s tool to brazenly push counterfeit clothing to customers.
Speaking to The Sun, Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Nick Court, of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit, said Brits need to be more aware of the laws around the sale of fake goods.
“We are keen to warn those selling counterfeit goods on social media sites that they are committing a crime, and we are actively cracking down on this nationwide.
“In May we visited several people in and around Manchester with plans to target the sellers of counterfeit products in other parts of the UK as well.”
The goods found by The Sun were clearly marked as being counterfeit items, but that doesn’t make the sale of those items legal.
Worse still, it means Facebook’s safety systems are clearly missing goods being openly sold as counterfeit.
One Marketplace user offered a pair of baby blue, crystal-embellished Louboutin high heels for £31 – and described them as “replica” in their post.
The store value of those same shoes is around £5,000, which is a steal, but illegal nonetheless.
This means it’s possible (and arguably likely) that there are lots of counterfeit items being sold secretly on Facebook that aren’t openly listed as fake.
“Counterfeit products are often produced by victims of forced labour and sold in bulk by organised criminals with little regard for people’s safety,” Inspector Court told The Sun.
“The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is determined to work with social media sites to prevent the buying and selling of what can be dangerous products.”
Even Facebook admits these practices are rogue: “The manufacture, promotion or sale of a counterfeit item is a type of trademark infringement that is illegal in most countries and is recognised as being harmful to consumers, trademark owners and honest sellers.”
“In some cases, counterfeit items may be harmful to your health since they may not follow the same inspection or safety precautions as authentic items.”
Last month, PIPCU seized thousands of items as part of a crackdown on counterfeit goods on Facebook Marketplace.
Police found 2,118 items at just once address, which they claim left “55 brands out of pocket”.
One seller flogging counterfeit wares told The Sun that he didn’t think Facebook was doing enough to warn users about the laws around the sale of fake goods.
Another said she thinks Facebook “doesn’t make it clear at all”, adding: “Shoes and bags are the most sold replica products I think.”
But even though Facebook gains from hosting the Marketplace, it’s not breaching the law by allowing the sale of counterfeit goods.
“In general, you could only take action against the seller,” David Barda, a lawyer from Slater & Gordon, told The Sun.
“As far as I understand, Facebook Marketplace is only open to private individuals, which means that a lot of the consumer protection laws do not apply.
“In that sense, it is really not any different from responding to an ad in a classifieds section of a newspaper. It is just two people making a deal.
“One criticism you might make of Facebook Marketplace is that it lacks the buyer protection schemes that eBay and Amazon use, so buyers are quite exposed to scams and knock-offs.”
It’s also worth noting that it’s not actually illegal to buy fake goods – only sellers are breaching the law.
“It’s an offence to sell, but not an offence to buy,” David told us.
“The law prohibits attempts to ‘financially gain’ from another person’s trademark, and so as the buyer is not attempting to profit, there is no offence.
“They might be in hot water if they try to sell the product on though.”
Selling counterfeit goods in the UK – what’s the law?
Slater & Gordon’s David Barda explains…
- “It is definitely illegal to sell counterfeit goods in the UK.”
- “The specific criminal offence is attempting to financially gain by using a trademark without the owner’s permission and includes advertising fake goods.”
- “It is also likely to be fraud, and/or a breach of contract if a seller holds goods out to be genuine and they turn out to be fake.”
- “In particular, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 gives buyers a right to a refund if an item doesn’t match its description.”
- “So if a bag is advertised on Facebook as a ‘genuine Gucci’ and it’s fake, buyers are entitled to a refund.”
- “There is also a possibility that if the owners of the Trademark notified Facebook about a particular seller selling counterfeit goods on Facebook marketplace, then they might be able to take action against Facebook if they failed to block the counterfeiter’s access to the marketplace.”
- “This would only be available to the companies that own the trademarks, so not much help to the punters.”
Facebook Marketplace launched back in 2016, giving users a way to flog items through the site – just like eBay.
Users can charge as much as they like for products, and receive the full amount because Facebook declines to take a cut.
But running Marketplace – which is chock with cheap designer knock-offs – gives Facebook a way to keep users hooked to the site.
Facebook has faced a number of Marketplace controversies before too, suggesting that the social network is failing to clean up its act.
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Within hours of Marketplace’s launch, Facebook was forced to apologise after users began flogging drugs, guns, animals and adult services.
A week later, it emerged that Brits were using Marketplace to sell drugs and imported cigarettes.
Just days after that, Facebook removed the “naughty section” of Marketplace, where users were selling sex online.
In 2017, The Sun Money reported on how there were hundreds of illicit train tickets for sale on Facebook’s Marketplace.
And in April this year, Facebook was exposed as acting as a “marketplace” for endangered animal body parts.
In a statement to The Sun about our investigation, a Facebook spokesperson said: “Our Commerce Policies make it clear that we don’t allow people to sell counterfeit items on Facebook.
“When we become aware of this kind of content, we work quickly to ensure it is removed, and all of the posts reported to us by The Sun have been taken down for violating our policies.”
Do you think Facebook does enough to keep its users safe? Let us know in the comments!
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