back to article L'Oreal sues eBay over counterfeit goods

eBay is being sued across Europe by the world's biggest cosmetics firm for not trying hard enough to battle counterfeiting. L'Oreal is taking the action in five European countries, including the UK. The cosmetics giant claims that eBay is profiting from the sale of counterfeit goods and is not doing enough to combat fakes. eBay …


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  1. James Kapherr

    It always makes me laugh...

    eBay always makes me laugh at the way they police things. Where FAKE goods are concerned, they never seem to do anything about it unless the public report the items... BUT... if you are selling a genuine item they remove your auction for the stupidest of reasons!

    For example, a few years ago I was selling an Xbox and in the listing I stated that it WAS chipped, but the chip was damaged and I had reverted it back to the original state.

    eBay removed the listing as apparently I was selling a chipped Xbox.

    Another case, selling a guitar. I put in the title "Like a PRS in style" - which the guitar was! eBay believed I was abusing the key words system. Hello? Pretty much everyone does that and the guitar WAS similar to a PRS SE in design, shape etc.

    Petty, I know - would have been better if they suspended the listing until the issue was corrected.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    contrast with boot sales

    The L'Oreal action contrasts with the efforts to persue counterfeiters at car boot sales.

    In this case it's trading standards and not the manufacturer who take action against the seller and not the sales site.

    I would presume a car boot organiser would find it easier to check for counterfeits as they can physically eyeball the goods and refuse a plot, but they aren't held accountable for what's sold.

    Ebay would have difficulty eyeballing goods for sale from China so how can they tell from poor quality pictures even if one is supplied. Really L'Oreall need to certify sellers are supplying correct goods but then that would cost them money wouldn't it!

    Perhaps L'Oreal don't like sales outside their supply chain or want to restrict sales from cheaper economic zones?

  3. Pete


    "We think eBay is perfectly capable of policing its site, but they offer to take action only after the fact. They refuse to act pre-emptively," Unifab chairman Marc Antoine Jamet told Reuters last year. "We think they have the IT to manage their sites, to track bank accounts and ownership"

    And what you THINK matters because...?

  4. Hans

    Ha! Some clout at last

    Much as I don't care much for L'Oreal's extortionate pricing of heavily marketed, but essentially cheapish products and their gross profiteering from a gullible public . . . (hmmm, did I equivocate there?) . . .

    it is equally gratifying to see ebay at least get some grief for their total contempt of everyone who falls foul of the practices and mal-practices surrounding their operations, most of which they gladly wash their hands of.

    Golden at least have the clout to do this in a way most common-or-garden ebay users wishes they could.

  5. Ian Ferguson


    "L'Oreal had estimated the cost to the company of the sale of counterfeit goods ran into millions of euros"

    Cost in what way? I really don't like claims like this without justification. Have they actually spent 'millions of euros' of their own money in chasing down counterfeit sellers, or is this a vague, meaningless claim of 'lost sales'? (Like those reports that say UK businesses are losing 6 billion trillion pounds due to people watching the world cup)

  6. Harry

    Read the rules before complaining

    "I put in the title "Like a PRS in style" - which the guitar was! eBay believed I was abusing the key words system."

    Ebay believed that because its precisely what you were doing -- using the PRS trademark to sell something that wasn't made by the actualy PRS trademark.

    You're also annoying people who search specifically for PRS in the title. Such a search should find only genuine PRS items.

    Ebay does, according to the rules, allow you to say that in the description -- but NOT in the title. If you can't be bothered to read (and obey) the rules then you shouldn't be upset when the listing is removed.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oooh, ebay or loreal...

    Tough call on who I would like to see lose that case!

    How about both of them?!

  8. Stu

    Bunch of charlatans

    Oh come on, we're talking about eBay here, the bunch of losers who still don't (as far as I'm aware):

    Check that you enter a valid postcode on registration

    Validate a phone number on registration (e.g. by text/voice SMS)

    Meaning that all kinds of nefarious characters can still try to rip you off. They really don't try half as hard as they should to keep their marketplace "safe". So much so that I've stopped using them altogether.

    Duty of care, anyone...?

  9. Thomas Parrott

    Its about time.

    I have a relatively small business with original but frequently copied products, these counterfeits are sold on eBay within a few months of us first introducing a product to the market.

    It is really hard to stop eBay sellers (and other auction sites) as well as Amazon MarketPlace from selling knock-offs when you have limited man power to constantly fill in the time consuming forms and report the listings.

    Because eBay has very good search engine listings, it also means that in natural searches the real product can be beaten by the counterfeit on eBay.

    There is no way the many small designers who are affected by these copies can afford to take eBay to task, so I am glad L'Oreal are having a pop at them.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big hitters required

    It's time someone put eBay out of business. They thrive on turning a blind eye to piracy and profiteering, their method of policing gives laissez-faire a bad name. As far as I can see they tacitly give the nod to any scam, to any amount of piracy to any rip-off as long as they keep getting their cut. It's high-time someone put the boot in. eBay profits from dodgy deals that some might even allege are criminal. If you tried to get away with what eBay do on the high street you could expect a call from Inspector Knacker. My own sister-in-law was charged £60 for a "boxed set" of DVDs that was nothing more than 6 DVDs produced on a PC that were worth about £2. That has to end.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Thomas Parrott

    OMG! Invisibility inventor!

    Of course, the thing about this is that does anyone actually know how many fake listings are removed? It's all very well talking about things being left on the site, or your own auctions occasionally being removed, but unless you know how many bad auctions are taken off you can't comment on whether they do a good job or not. For all we know they remove 50 auctions for every one that gets through, and, of course, L'Oreal knows as much as we do about the matter.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Go for the seller

    "My own sister-in-law was charged £60 for a "boxed set" of DVDs that was nothing more than 6 DVDs produced on a PC that were worth about £2. That has to end"

    But its the seller that's primarily at fault here, not ebay. Ebay didn't describe the goods, the seller did. And if you email the seller's local Trading Standards office they can AND SHOULD take action against that seller.

    No nonsense about TS only being interested in traders not private sellers here please. Making fake CDs is a manufacturing process. By definition, the seller is running a BUSINESS (even if he only does it the once). If Trading Standards refuses to understand that, then the TS officer needs to be sacked and replaced by somebody who does.

    The one case I'd say you SHOULD have a case against ebay would be if ebay was unable to provide valid and verified registration details when requested by trading standards. In that case, I'd say ebay ought to be held liable -- and indeed, the law ought to MAKE ebay legally liable whenever a crime is committed and ebay cannot identify the perpetrator.

    Ebay cannot practically demand to see every CD before it goes on sale, but ebay could and should be doing more to verify that it has cast iron identity of everybody that sells there. But a change of law is needed to make it happen.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Go for the seller

    You can make a request for the seller's identity, but all too frequently, as you hinted at, their details are entirely fictitious. If noticed, eBay will block the account, and the the seller moves on to another account from their bank of phony legends.

    As for Trading Standards, forget about it; as much as I'd like to think that they'd jump at the chance, they have too few staff for too great a problem, and definitely don't move for the average seller. You need to be aiming for the *really* big guys to even so much as pique their interest.

    If eBay were serious about clamping down on the problem, they'd introduce a "Verify Me!"- type feature, whereby sellers would pay £5 to submit to a basic identity check and get a pretty little "I'm safe!" icon by their name. Furthermore, after an infringement has been found, they'd make available the details registered at PayPal - the money's got to get out somehow, doesn't it?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thomas Parrott

    So you think other people should police your own copyright and spend their own money rather than you? Are you going to give them training for this? Are they going to be an expert on every product you create and manufacture? You realize what you are proposing is totally ridiculous. Other companies can only take action when it's either obvious or the rights holders contact them.

    Can you imagine if it was illegal to sell used cars and you were not allowed to resell them? That is what a lot of designer product companies want to have happen with their "authorized" seller schemes. The day you buy something with your own money and are not allowed to get money back for it will be a horrible day. With this precident classified ads for goods would have to go away.

  15. Gareth

    12m Euros? Misleading...

    "The French Government this week seized almost 13,000 handbags and leather goods which were copies of luxury items that it said were worth €12m."

    Somewhat misleading figures from the French government.

    They're saying each seized item was "worth" 923 euros at retail /if/ it was genuine, except for the fact that the fakes would retail for about tenth of that, and even then only if they were particularly good. So the French haul was worth 1.1m euros at best.

  16. Acme Fixer

    L'oreal Sues eBAy

    In the U.S., the telcos can't be sued because they fail to prevent scammers and obscene callers from using the phones to violate the laws.

    In the U.S., the genuine handbag sellers don't sue the owner of the property the fake store is renting/occupying because the property owner failed to make sure the seller was selling only the real thing.

    So it seems to me that eBay has a good defense against this suit. That's not to say that I'm defending eBay. They have got me P.O'd a number of times because they let scumbag sellers do their selling in blatant violation of the AUP. But I fully understand that with a few million transactions in hours or days, it's gonna be difficult to police even a small fraction of the sellers for violating the AUP. It's like the Real World: there's just not enough cops and jails to keep the lowlife from violating the laws.

  17. James Kapherr


    "You're also annoying people who search specifically for PRS in the title. Such a search should find only genuine PRS items."

    Which is WHY when listing guitars, you can drill it down by the make.... so if you search for PRS, click Electric Guitar -> 6 String -> PRS for example.

    Titles are not as accurate as the above method. At least then you will find exactly what you are looking for.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ebay. Honesty optional

    Having had the brain meltingly annoying experience of trying to get ebay to remove a fraudulent action (that was in competition with my item) this week, I can see why L'Oreal might be annoyed with them.

    I reported the auction on three occations. Outlining exactly why the item wasn't what it pruported to be. Ebay let the dodgy auction finish (with a successful bid) and then told me they wouldn't refund my listing fee despite my auction suffering from being in competion with a much cheaper (albeit dodgy) item (Both items were supposed to be the same, and were described as such - but only mine was the real deal)

    It appears Ebay are really good at excuses and really bad at protecting it's customers from fraud. Even when they know about it.

    I'm not a fan of L'Oreal, but I'm really hoping Ebay get a bloody nose and are called to account for their utter disdain for details like honesty and duties of care.

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