Having indulged in a lot of online shopping this Christmas, I should’ve remembered that famous Abraham Lincoln quote that pops up on the web from time to time: “One shouldn’t believe everything one reads just because they see it on the Internet.”
I bought books from Amazon.ca and Chapters.ca, products from Apple.ca and even got a great deal on a Lumix telephoto lens through Futureshop.ca. There were fabulous deals to be had, and I was a seasoned online shopper. Or so I thought.
In retrospect, my ‘seasoning’ this month may have been poultry seasoning.
You see, I found – or thought I had found – the motherlode of deals on one of those ads that pops up on Facebook. A Canada Goose Expedition Parka, regularly $700, on sale for only $287.
I clicked on the link and it took me to something called the Winter Parka Outlet. The site had the Canada Goose logo. In fact, the Canada Goose logo and trademarks were all over the site, together with other trademarks such as ‘McAfee Secure’ and very professional photographs of people wearing the iconic coats in all sorts of cold environments.
There was free shipping and no tax, presumably because the GST/PST/HST was incorporated in the price. Clearly, one of Canada Goose’s subsidiaries or dealers was liquidating inventory in conjunction with Black Friday and Christmas. How could I lose? What a deal! So I went ahead and bought a coat.
I filled out the online information so the vendor had my residential address for credit card billing purposes, and my office address for delivery purposes, just like Apple, Amazon and other online sales companies do. My order was confirmed by e-mail a few moments later in the usual way.
“What was your first clue that things weren’t quite as they seemed, Sherlock?”
Well, I guess no tax and free shipping could have been a giveaway. Maybe I should have paid attention to the keywords on the website’s landing page: Canada Goose Cheap Sale.
But then I received an e-mail later that day that read, in broken English:
“Thanks for order on our website. There are two different addresses in your order. But according to credit card company’s secure policy, it must be same information between your billing address and your parcel’s shipping address. If you really want to ship your order to your shipping address, please e-mail us your scanned files of fronts of your ID card and credit card.”
Oh oh, I thought to myself. I’ve been scammed.
I’m not aware of any company that wants a scanned copy of my credit card and my driver’s licence or my passport to enable them to deliver something to my office. Identity theft, fake goods and “you idiot” immediately came to mind. I reached for the dunce cap. And the phone.
When I called my credit card company to cancel my card, sheepishly explaining to the agent what I had done as if I were telling the school principal how I broke the window in the classroom, he said something like: “Oh the Canada Goose scam...we’re seeing a lot of that this month. Didn’t you know Canada Goose never sells online or at discount? I’ll cancel the card right away.”
Thankfully, my card was cancelled before the order was processed.
There are many learning lessons to be taken from this story for vendors and consumers alike.
1. Online vendors should never ask for, or be sent, scanned copies of your credit card or your ID. If they do, you risk your identify being stolen if you send it.
2. Do some quick research on the brand. A quick Google search might reveal that the manufacturer never discounts or even sells online, so an online vendor drastically reducing the price of goods that the manufacturer doesn’t even sell online might tip you off that something isn’t quite right.
3. Your research might also show that consumers are reporting incidents of online vendors selling counterfeit goods using very professional looking web graphics, and of course, the manufacturer’s logos and trademarks.
4. Check the FAQ page. Are the answers written in poor or grammatically deficient English?
5. Look at the ‘official site.’ How different is it? Are the photographs and graphics the same, or do they look different?
I discovered (better late than never) that Canada Goose, does a good job of alerting consumers to counterfeit Canada Goose products here, comparing its products to counterfeit ones using useful images and information.
Better yet, Canada Goose allows you to enter the URL of the suspicious retailer in a search engine on their site that will reveal if the retailer is authorized by Canada Goose or not.
“Made illegally in factories in Asia,” Canada Goose says, “ the fake jackets are found on many rogue websites as well as in the flea markets of Shanghai, Beijing and Bangkok. Counterfeiting is illegal. It often funds organized crime and counterfeit factories in regions where labour standards are lax often employ child labour. Counterfeiting is not only illegal, but also dangerous. After analyzing the content of counterfeit jackets, we know that instead of the sanitized, Canadian down used by Canada Goose, counterfeiters often use feather mulch or other fillers. These materials are often coated in bacteria, fungus or mildew, posing significant health risks to unsuspecting consumers. As well, raccoon, dog or other unknown animal hair may be used in place of our functional coyote fur ruff. Even more frightening is that for a person in cold climate, an authentic Canada Goose parka could mean the difference between life and death. Without real down and fur, the chance of frostbite or freezing becomes a real possibility.”
All manufacturers could learn from this experience. It may be difficult for customs agents and the police to prevent importation of counterfeit goods, but at the very least, if you’re able to demonstrate on your website the benefits of your products, showing consumers what distinguishes the fake goods from the real goods, why they should always buy the real thing, and a way to check whether a vendor is an authorized retailer, you may save a few unsuspecting consumers from getting goosed.
Tony Wilson is a franchising, licensing and intellectual property lawyer at Boughton Law Corp. in Vancouver, he is an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU), and he is the author of two books: Manage Your Online Reputation, and Buying a Franchise in Canada. His opinions do not reflect those of the Law Society of British Columbia, SFU or any other organization.