By Martin Tachio
A month to his wedding, while trying to decide where to buy a wedding ring for his soon-to-be bride and himself, Andy bumped into an online advertisement displaying designer wedding bands, bracelets and jewelries all of which was tagged ‘authentic’.
He followed the link where he accessed an e-commerce jewelry store that claimed its stores are all over Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Andy placed orders for stuff worth over N180,000 and the site responded with a confirmation email with freight code and delivery schedule for 10 working days. He signed out with a smile, envisaging that his order was for genuine jewelry he will relish.
Within the ten day period for delivery, his parcels arrived Abuja. In excitement, he hooked up with his girlfriend to share the good news. The bride-to-be, on sighting the jewelry told him they were fake! In disbelief, he insisted they were worth it, took it home and hid the package for the wedding day.
The next time he opened his box to retrieve them was on his bachelor’s eve; the rings, bracelets and all other supposedly magnificent stuff in the trinket box had turned Caramel in colour! In shock, he looked closely at the pack they were shipped in, and observed they were shipped from Bangladesh, even though he ordered from Dubai store!
He knew immediately that he was conned by an online e-commerce store. Up until this moment, Andy does not trust any purchase online be they groceries or anything even less.
Andy’s case was even from overseas vendor. Now, a group of friends were relaxing somewhere in the Wuye district of Abuja when one of them fiddling his phone saw an advert displayed by a very popular online store in Nigeria. The ads were showing a variety of Bluetooth powered speaker boxes commonly used these days to play music at home and in parks. The products were so beautiful with warranty stamps on them and remarkably cheap as well.
The guy showed his other friends the ad and all five of them used their individual phones to order…price was N7800 including delivery charges from Lagos to Abuja. None of them used their Bluetooth devices for up to 2 weeks after taking delivery before it packed up.
This is just another case of counterfeit product purchase. Several cases of misleading online ads and transactions abound in Nigeria; every second and minute of the day. Though, it is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, but it may seem more difficult pursuing justice to the end here.
Truth is that, for every technological innovation and advancement, unscrupulous entities and individuals always use it for malicious intent. They use the internet and believability of e-commerce to perpetrate the peddling of counterfeit products that are especially in high demand.
Believe me, the problem is extensive. Available data indicate that there are over 2 billion digital buyers worldwide, and many experts project that retail e-commerce stores could gross over USD4.9 trillion before the end of 2021.
The FBI, Interpol, World Customs Organization and different chambers of commerce world over all agree that roughly 9% of global trade annually is comprised of fake and counterfeit goods.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC), an agency of the federal government, which has the mandate of addressing consumer complaints, providing consumer education and encouraging trade, industry and quality standards to safeguard the interest of consumers has since fallen short of this mandate. Hence the government established the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) in 2019.
Two years down the line, the presence of the FCCPC is neither felt online nor among Nigerians that are daily fleeced of their hard earned money by various online e-commerce stores selling counterfeit goods with no attendant consequences.
The FCCPC, despite having a powerful mandate of redressing consumer complaints and prosecution of offenders who through misleading adverts sell fake goods, has very little content in the information space.
As populist as it is conceived, it still remains underground by default, probably due to fact that many CEOs of federal government agencies are pretty technophobic!
Nigerian consumers face startling threats of purchasing fake goods as countries known for counterfeiting have got foothold in Nigeria and have moved their rogue businesses online unchecked.
The danger of allowing this to fester by agencies of government that should do better is that this phenomenon can compromise human health, cause serious injuries or death, not to mention the loss of money on products that do not work properly or at all.
Selling of counterfeit products online through globally established e-commerce platforms creates negative economic impact, whereby manufacturers and brands face unfair competition due to similar products sold at a fraction of the original’s price.
Law enforcement agencies should step up surveillance and monitoring both online and offline, ensure punitive sanctions on offenders publicly and be visible in every front.
The digital revolution is here, and will remain for the unforeseeable future, we are glad that it has presented humanity with robust benefits through internet connectivity at a previously inconceivable speed.
Tachio writes from email@example.com