Birkenstock: Amazon profits from trade in counterfeits

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The famous shoe manufacturer Birkenstock criticised Amazon sharply for the sale of counterfeits on its online marketplace - and considers the internet giant an "accomplice" to fraud. In court, the long-established company now scored an important victory against Amazon.

The Rhineland-Palatinate shoe manufacturer succeeded in obtaining a preliminary injunction against Amazon. The company accused Amazon of leading customers to offers on its online marketplace with so-called typo advertising, and thus away from Birkenstock, the original manufacturer. The district court of Düsseldorf decided that Amazon must refrain from such actions in regards to the Birkenstock brand.

Amazon had run multiple ads on search engine provider Google, which led customers to listings on its online marketplace when they accidentally searched for terms such as “Brikenstock”, “Birkenstok” or “Bierkenstock”. Birkenstock wanted to prevent this as it feared that unsuspecting buyers might find counterfeit products on Marketplace. Particularly because Birkenstock stopped supplying Amazon in Europe at the beginning of the year after it had already terminated its contract with Amazon in the US at the end of 2016 (we reported).

Oliver Reichert, managing director at Birkenstock, explained to magazine Der Spiegel that the company had always hoped for a common solution with Amazon. “We were always open to discussions. But the problem starts there: With whom at Amazon can I even talk about this topic?” Birkenstock reached out to Amazon many times and pointed out counterfeit products on the Amazon Marketplace site – with no reaction from the internet giant. An absolute no-go for Reichert. “If you sell illicit goods in your marketplace, you have to be accountable for them.”

Reichert suspects that Amazon deliberately tolerates the trade in pirated goods: “The truth is that Amazon profits from counterfeits. After all, they also collect a commission from dubious sellers. […] As far as we’re concerned, Amazon is an accomplice.”

According to Reichert, it was incredibly problematic for Birkenstock that many Amazon customers sent their fake products to the original manufacturer’s customer service. “Because people, of course, believed they had bought original products – when in fact they were cheap copies. It is immensely difficult to explain to a customer that we cannot repair their shoes, which they think they bought at a reputable Amazon shop.”

Amazon, however, emphasises that the sale of counterfeit products is prohibited on its pages and that illicit goods would be removed as soon as Amazon became aware of them. “If there are concerns about the authenticity of products, we ask copyright holders to inform us with the dedicated notification form provided on our website,” explained the German press department of the online retailer.

Sources: Amazon, Birkenstock, Der Spiegel, Deutsche Wirtschaftsnachrichten, Footwear News

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