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Recognising counterfeits and illegal offers

General indicators of counterfeit and pirated products

Is there a realistic price difference in comparison to the original product? Supposed bargains often turn out to be fakes, although an expensive price alone is no guarantee for authenticity. This can also serve to camouflage the fact that something is a fake.

Luxury products are rarely sold at the beach or at markets. Medicines should be exclusively purchased from specialist retailers. If you want to be sure that a shop is an authorised dealer, enquire with the original manufacturer. Internet sites usually indicate from where you can safely purchase products.

Faced with confusing explanations for the cheap price, the place of sale or the quantities available? Then exercise caution. The same holds true if the manufacturer or seller can only be identified with difficulty or is hiding behind an ominous address with which it's not possible to make direct contact.

Genuine products are not sold in badly-printed damaged or cheap packaging. Counterfeiters also don't usually conform to mandatory or customary labelling requirements, such as place of manufacture, composition, importer etc.

Packaging, labels or enclosures with spelling or language mistakes often indicate that the product is a fake. Manufacturers of genuine products work with professional copywriters and translators.

If guarantee slips, certificates and instructions are not delivered with the item, exercise caution. However, product enclosures and seals of quality are not necessarily a guarantee for authenticity because they, of course, can be forged too.

If the zip on the handbag is already about to fall apart after the first use or the seams have already come undone, then it’s probably a fake. Counterfeiters usually use cheaper materials than the original manufacturer or those specified on the label.

If content (such as music, games, films, e-books and pictures) can be legally downloaded or streamed from the internet for free, it’s usually because it’s a promotional campaign. Check carefully for clear information on the identity of the free content provider. If you can’t find any information, it's probably an illegal offer.


Indicators when buying online:

Counterfeiters are increasingly using the internet to sell their products. In addition to the general indicators, here are some tips that will help you to recognise genuine products from fake ones in online shops and sometimes on online auction sites such as or eBay.

Unusual domain names such as or for online shops are suspicious. The same applies to top level domains such as ".to". Typical pirate writing styles such as "warez", "gamez", "appz" or "moviez" are also suspicious.

The majority of online shops selling fakes operate from abroad yet are specifically targeted at Swiss customers. They create the impression that the dealer is from Switzerland. In Switzerland, sellers operating in electronic commerce are required under Art. 3 para. 1 let. s of the Unfair Competition Act (available in German, French or Italian) to provide clear and complete information on their identity and give a contact address. If a website doesn’t have a masthead with an address, e-mail address and telephone number of the seller, it’s better not to do business with them. Also, if the seller's e-mail address is linked to a free e-mail account, doubts should be raised as to how reputable they are.

With a so-called Whois search (e.g., you can find out where the seller has registered his website. Reputable providers use their correct address. The use of anonymising services, however, is suspicious. If the seller hasn't registered a valid address or if it sounds exotic or doesn't match the address in the masthead, then caution should also be exercised.

Is the information on the website or in the General Terms and Conditions written incorrectly or do they sound like they were machine translated? If so, you’re most likely dealing with an online shop for counterfeit goods.

Very few retailers of luxury goods such as watches and accessories sell their products over the internet. If an assortment of various luxury brands is offered for sale together on one internet site, this can be an indication that they’re counterfeit goods. When it doubt, contact the original manufacturer and ask whether the seller is indeed an authorised dealer.

For medicines, the situation is even clearer: they’re not allowed to be sold on the internet in Switzerland. The few suppliers who have an exemption for online sales will always require a prescription.

Swissmedic’s Guideline on Medicines and the Internet

More and more online shops are displaying seals of quality. The most common in Switzerland are those with "Trusted Shops" and "Swiss Online Garantie". You can check whether the seal of quality being displayed is actually genuine by just clicking on the seal. It should redirect you to the website of the certifying organisation. If not, someone is appearing under false pretences and the seal is misleading. In this case, call the e-commerce ombuds man office at the consumer forum kf (in German only).

Good quality products have their price, even on the internet: an unusually large assortment at excessively low bargain prices can be an indication of fake goods. A quick comparison of prices and assortment with other suppliers can help you to identify possible fraudulent goods.

If the photographs of the goods for sale are blurry, this is usually to hide the bad quality of the counterfeit goods. Such sellers will often use pictures from the real manufacturer on their own websites without permission. Check the source of the pictures by doing an image search using the product name. If you find the same pictures on the original manufacturer’s website, then they were probably copied from there.

If a product is advertised as a "copy", "imitation", "replica", "cheap", or "lookalike" then it’s clearly a fake. Also exercise caution if designations like "imported goods", "in the style of", "type" or "similar to" are used. If a seller says that he cannot vouch for the authenticity of the product or that there might be slight deviations from the original, then it’s better not to buy it.

Buyers can rate sellers in online forums and online auction sites. This gives you a first impression of the seller and his business practices. In particular, be sure to critically read the negative and neutral evaluations for any indications of fakes. You can also search for the name of the seller on the internet. Many disappointed buyers share information in forums and warn others of sellers who are hawking fakes.