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Trouble With Counterfeit Goods On Amazon

On the heels of the biggest day for sales in Amazon.com history, the Seattle-based company is being criticized for it's often slow response to rogue sellers offering counterfeit goods.

On the heels of the biggest day for sales in Amazon.com history, the Seattle-based company is being criticized for it's often slow response to rogue sellers offering counterfeit goods.

Many of these bad players are based overseas and hide in the shadows of Amazon's massive operation, frustrating loyal customers and threatening to put legitimate companies out of business.

"I worked very hard on this design right here, which isn't even done," said Dave Hendricks, referencing a hand drawn wall decal. "It took me about two days to draw."

If being copied is the highest form of compliment, then its compliments taking a bite out Hendricks' business.

He says the hand drawn wall decals he and his wife sell on Amazon.com are being hijacked by counterfeit dealers who copy his exact design and offer a lower quality fake often for less money.

"It's horrible. It feels like someone is riding on your back to make a living," Hendricks said.

These cheaters are featured on Amazon attached to Hendricks' own listing making it hard for customers to tell the difference between Hendricks' product and the imitation.

Just click on the tab marked "other sellers" and you're taken to a new page featuring what Hendricks' says in his case are fakes.

"It's like a fungus," Hendricks said. "What do you think is going to happen to me by Christmas? They will push me out of my product."

Independent dealers are responsible for more than 40 percent of the sales on Amazon.com and a growing number of them are pleading for help on internet forums writing, "Amazon, do something!"

They have even formed a Facebook group with more than 600 members.

"They either don't listen or don't care," Hendricks said.

Also falling victim to rogue listings are unsuspecting customers like Joe Zaccaria, who received a damaged watch, not the Samsung he thought he ordered on Amazon.

"You find out after the fact, the order is being shipped out of China or you are dealing with a company in Hong Kong or somewhere else," Zaccaria said. "So, it is pretty deceptive on the part of Amazon's website."

Robert Cumbow is a copyright and trademark attorney at Miller Nash Graham & Dunn who says copyright infringement is becoming increasingly common.

"There is a continuing problem with how long it is taking companies like Amazon, YouTube, eBay and others to actually respond to these complaints," Cumbow said.

So what is Amazon's legal responsibility?

"They don't have a responsibility to track down counterfeit goods that are being offered for sale on their own platform because it is such a huge task, what they do have a responsibility to do is once they are on notice that a particular item or group of items being offered for sale by one or more of their sellers are counterfeit, then they must take those down."

Hendricks and dozens other business owners say that didn't happen.

In Dave's case repeated complaints went unresolved until KING got involved.

One day after KING emailed Amazon, an company spokesperson wrote them back to say they're working on the problem.

One hour after that the counterfeits were gone.

Hendricks also received an email from amazon saying, "We removed these items from our site."

In a statement, the Amazon spokesperson added, "We are constantly innovating on behalf of our customers and working with manufacturers, content owners, vendors, and sellers to improve the ways we detect and prevent counterfeit products from reaching our marketplace. We work hard on this issue every day because we know that our customers trust that they are buying authentic products when they shop on Amazon.com."

A victory? Not quite.

Less than two hours later Hendricks said the counterfeiters were back in business, operating under a new name, same fake product.

"They call it an expensive whack a mole game," Hendricks said. "It feels like trespassing on my own property."

Hendricks said he wished Amazon would put more stringent limits on sellers new to the site to deter counterfeiters and also give legitimate independent dealers more tools to protect themselves.

Amazon has now assigned a global account manager to help Hendricks keep the counterfeits off his listings.

If you are a dealer, Cumbow advises registering your copyright and trademark and being prepared to protect it with a fight.

If you are a buyer who ends up with a bogus product, Amazon will give you a refund.

It's also important to double check who the listed dealer is and whether they have good reviews.