Amazon is warning customers this week that nutritional supplements they purchased recently may be knock-offs.
In an email to customers, first reported by Wired, Amazon said that certain Align nutritional supplements that were sold by 3rd party sellers – not including manufacturer Procter & Gamble – could likely be counterfeit.
Amazon has assured customers they will be refunded for the products, but does urge them to discard them immediately. And while the company calls the situation “a rare instance,” some experts believe it sheds light on a growing problem for Amazon – as volume increases, how does the marketplace manage the problem of potentially nefarious actors selling bogus goods?
Amazon’s business model basically offers goods in two ways. Either Amazon buys them and serves as something of a distributor, or the third-party sellers themselves list the goods on Amazon’s marketplace in order to sell direct. This marketplace selling, says Wired, accounts for 58 percent of Amazon’s sales volume though it also opens up Amazon customers to all kinds of problems, including buying fake goods and then having no way to track down the manufacturer – who often disappears at the sign of trouble, especially if they’re overseas.
And while Amazon is fighting back on a recent court ruling that says it can be held liable in cases such as these, the company stresses that it is taking its own steps to make these types of situations less likely.
One program is called Transparency, and it allows for item-level tracing of legit goods which feature a unique code that Amazon can scan to verify authenticity before the item reaches the customer. Another, Project Zero, gives manufacturers the agency to instantly boot bad sellers who are ripping their products.
But the question is, can programs like these from Amazon even keep up with the explosive growth of the online retailer’s marketplace? A recent study revealed that Amazon can’t even get a handle on the fake reviews on its site: Fakespot.com says about a third of them aren’t actually legit.