An epidemic of inauthentic products may be consuming the mindset of today’s American consumers, according to a recent Harris Poll on behalf of DNA-based authentication firm Applied DNA Sciences—roughly four in five Americans (79 percent) are concerned that products they purchase, which they expect to be high quality, could be made using low quality materials.

In addition, more than 7 in 10 (71 percent) are concerned that products they purchase have made false claims, and nearly two thirds (65 percent) are concerned that products they purchase at full price could be knock-offs.

“This survey confirms that selling inauthentic products can be extremely detrimental to companies and their brands,” said James A. Hayward, Ph.D., chairman, president and CEO of Applied DNA Sciences, in a news release. “In fact, nearly all Americans (94 percent) say that, if they found out a product they bought at full price was inauthentic, they would take action.”

Among those who would take action:

  • 73 percent would stop buying from the company that sold it
  • 67 percent would try to return the product
  • 63 percent would tell friends/family about their negative experience
  • 43 percent would formally defame the company that sold it by writing a negative review
  • 43 percent would report the company to regulatory agencies

Behavioral impacts fluctuate based on age and gender, with women more likely than men and older adults more likely than younger adults to act.

  • 77 percent of women vs. 69 percent of men, and 81% of adults aged 45+ vs aged 64 percent of adults aged 18-44 would stop buying from the company that sold the inauthentic product
  • 72 percent of adults aged 45+ vs. 59% of adults aged 18-34 would try to return the product
  • 66 percent of women vs. 60 percent of men and 69 percent of adults aged 45+ vs. 54 percent of adults aged 18-34 would tell friends/family about their negative experience
  • 46 percent of women vs. 40 percent of men would write a negative review about the company that sold it
  • 48 percent of adults aged 45+ vs. 36 percent of adults aged 18-44 would report the company to the authorities.

Americans disapprove of unethical business practices and the use of forced labor when it comes to companies they purchase from

They are not naïve to the fact that these practices are prevalent. Nearly three quarters of Americans are concerned that products they purchase could be made using forced labor or by companies that use bad business practices (74 percent and 73 percent respectively). Again, differences arise when it comes to gender and age:

  • Women are more likely than men to voice concern about forced labor (80 percent vs 69 percent) and companies with bad business practices (79 percent vs 66 percent).
  • Older adults, ages 65+, are more likely than their younger counterparts to feel forced labor may be rampant, 81 percent are concerned about this when it comes to the products they purchase compared to 73 percent of 18-to-64-year-olds.

The prevalence of inauthentic products is growing significantly

The 2018 Global Brand Counterfeiting Report stated that counterfeiting globally reached 1.2 trillion in 2017 and is expected to reach 1.82 trillion by 2020. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) published statistics for the fiscal year in 2016 that showed 31,560 seizures of intellectual property rights (IPRs), up nine percent from the previous fiscal year. CBP estimated that the total manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the seized goods would have equaled approximately $1.4 billion if they were legitimate products.

“Years of technological advancement have made it harder to spot inauthentic products,” added Dr. Hayward. “As a result, consumers are deceived into purchasing an inferior or unethically produced product. We offer an authentication solution to manufacturers by using biotechnology as a forensic foundation to track products on a molecular level from source to seller. It provides supply chains with scientific proof and physical traceability of materials and products.”

“The proliferation of counterfeit products is not only a threat to American brands, but also to American consumers,” said Stephen Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, in the release. “While lost sales and brand equity are certainly concerns, the dangers of buying a product that does not meet product safety requirements, was made in an unregulated factory, or that does not meet quality standards is very real. Creating better public policy, educating consumers, and taking advantage of emerging technologies are all essential components in the fight against intellectual property theft.”

Consumers can become more proactive to ensure an authentic purchase

The United States Government Accountability Office suggests that consumers become familiar with the brand and know its products. Consumer should also buy only from trusted retailers, know the difference between “fulfilled by” and “sold by,” and be wary of “too good to be true” prices.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Applied DNA Sciences between June 21 and 25, 2018 among 2,019 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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