Mobile handset manufacturers competing in the multimedia mobile phone space against the likes of the iPhone are being undermined by counterfeiters flooding the UK with unofficial products through online auctions. According to analysis of three rival handsets from online brand monitoring specialist Netnames, Nokia is by far the most targeted company, with LG and Samsung experiencing the problem to a lesser extent.

The analysis carried out through NetNames’ sister company Envisional evaluated the number of auctions taking place on over a seven day period, focusing on the following handsets: Nokia N95, LG Viewty, and Samsung F700.

Nokia N95 most targeted handset

The analysis revealed that there were nearly 2,250 sellers of the Nokia N95, many of which were unofficially offering the product as unlocked. In addition, ten per cent of the sellers were offering goods into the UK originating from Hong Kong and the USA which in itself is not a definitive sign of a fake product, however it is worth considering that if a handset does not originate in the UK it must be unlocked to be used and hence is unofficial.

In addition to the handsets themselves, there were also a large number of N95 batteries on offer. The sellers here are dominated by a few individuals offering hundreds of items, and the products offered can often be cheap generics that are of poor quality which could be potentially dangerous or damaging to the phone. The top ten sellers were shifting 92% of the 1,505 products identified and 20 per cent of the products were offered into the UK from Hong Kong.

LG and Samsung middle of the road

The analysis revealed that the vast majority of the 325 sellers of LG Viewty handsets were based in the UK and, unlike the N95, there were no individual sellers handling a disproportionate number of products. The maximum number of products handled by the top sellers was between ten and 30 items. Only 30 auctions were detected for the LG Viewty battery however, like the N95, only a minority were described as ‘original’ or ‘genuine’ with the remainder most likely to be cheap generics.

The Samsung F700 fared better than the N95 and Viewty with the majority of sellers originating in the UK and no individual sellers selling large numbers of products – the maximum for the top sellers during the monitoring period was only four items. Only one seller was offering F700 batteries, however the indication was that the three on display were cheap generics offered out of Hong Kong.

Elizabeth May, Vice-President of the Authentics Foundation, said: “It is vitally important that consumer awareness of counterfeit goods is raised. It can be very difficult for buyers to tell the difference between a fake and genuine product. However, even when consumers are aware that an item is fake there is often an ambiguous relationship with counterfeiters and buyers are prepared to purchase a product they see as a good deal regardless of its origin. Consumers need to be informed about both the criminal and humanitarian impact of counterfeiting – namely that Fakes Cost More.”

Jonathan Robinson, Chief Operating Officer of NetNames: “Too many consumers are unaware of the disreputable sources of counterfeit goods, particularly in the electronics space. The medium of online auction sites afford counterfeiters opportunities that would have been unimaginable fifteen years ago. Manufacturers – even if they decide not to act on the information – at least need to be aware of and monitor the counterfeiting of their goods. If a consumer has a bad experience with a product with your branding on it, it will not necessarily occur to them that it is counterfeit, it will simply create a negative perception which can quickly spread across product reviews, blogs and other social media creating untold brand damage.”

NetNames and The Authentics Foundation will be exhibiting at booth 200 at INTA 2008, Berlin, 17-21 May 2008.

Published on: 12:00AM on 14th May 2008