Counterfeit Baby Products At Amazon

And you don't even get to choose whether you get a real or a fake.

While I know that a lot of you have a love affair going on with Amazon Prime and their seemingly amazing two-day shipping, you should know that you’re not necessarily going to get what you think you’re ordering… and, based on our experience and what I’m reading in the media, even after receiving reports of counterfeit merchandise, Amazon will not necessarily work to guarantee the items they are shipping are authentic merchandise.  They also will not intervene on the manufacturer’s behalf to ensure that the products they are selling are in  compliance with intellectual property laws.

They enable the continued sale of counterfeit items to consumers through a Terms of Service that shifts liability for legal compliance to the company they identify as the “Seller”, but then they conceal the Seller’s true identity (registered business name, address, phone number). Concealing a Seller’s identity makes it near impossible for manufacturers to enforce their property rights when Amazon refuses.

If you purchase a bumGenius or a Flip item on Amazon’s website, you might get a real cloth diaper, or you might get a counterfeit diaper. Even though Cotton Babies is aware that those products are for sale on Amazon, we have no way to effectively intervene to stop the sales of these counterfeit items.

Here’s an example of how this plays out.

This Flip cover is fake.  The pictures are ours. The product description is ours. The product diagram is ours.  The packaging looks almost like ours.  From a warehouse worker’s vantage point, it looks like a real Flip cover, so it goes with the other Flip covers.  Can you tell that it’s fake?

ayebel-flip

 

The seller is identified as “Ayebel“. That Flip cover is stored (binned) with all other Sassy colored Flip diaper covers in an Amazon fulfillment center. It’s priced at $12.99. Regular retail price for a Flip cover is $14.95. You found a deal right? Wrong. That cover is made wrong, using the wrong manufacturing process and materials. It will fall apart. If a friend asks you where you bought that diaper cover, you’re never going to tell them that you bought that Flip cover from Ayebel.   You probably aren’t even consciously buying from Ayebel. You just picked the cheapest price on Amazon for a Flip cover and hit the Buy Now button. They let Ayebel use our copyrighted product photography without verifying that they had permission, so the listing looks real. You’re going to tell your friends online that you got a great deal on that product from Amazon. Everyone flocks to Amazon to get a great deal on a Flip cover. Amazon wins the sale. Ayebel wins the sale. A few months later, you and your friend are posting online about how awful this diaper cover is and you’re convinced nobody should use Flip covers.  You are advised to contact Cotton Babies for warranty coverage only to learn that you purchased fraudulent, badly made product and have no recourse other than to seek a refund through Amazon. Now go try to find Ayebel using your favorite search engine. Any luck?

A Seller can operate on Amazon under almost any name, as a business or an individual.  There’s no way for us as a manufacturer to find out who Ayebel is or how to contact them.  If we were successful in having them removed from the Amazon marketplace, they come easily back under a different name and list the same products again. It’s like a torturous, horrible, never-ending game of Whack-A-Mole.

If you’re a manufacturer who doesn’t mind stealing product designs and using another company’s brand name to make your quick buck, Amazon FBA is a dream come true.

It gets better.  According to recent articles, if you tried to hold Amazon accountable for selling you fake merchandise, Amazon will actually deny that they ever sold you the merchandise.

“[…] Amazon countered that its fulfillment, payment processing and product listing services don’t mean that Amazon is offering a product for sale. Instead, the company argued, those are services the company provides to third-party retailers, which are the ones making the offer of sale.” – Geekwire

Ayebel sold you that cover, not Amazon. Who are they again? For your reading enjoyment, here’s a link to the actual court verdict.

Further, Amazon does nothing to ensure that consumers can choose to receive authentic product by being selective with the Seller identity .  The sellers identities are public with the product listing… but (people?!!) Amazon keeps the real and counterfeit items TOGETHER in the SAME BIN in their fulfillment centers.   So, now you know that Ayebel is selling counterfeit Fip diaper covers.  You still want your Prime shipping, so you choose to buy from Cotton Babies on Amazon. Bad news.  You might still get a fake Flip diaper cover because Ayebel’s merchandise is kept with our merchandise.  Return that fake Flip cover… you might get another one, because the fakes are still kept with the real.

After reading an article tonight about Birkenstock choosing to abandon it’s relationship with Amazon entirely, it’s clear that we aren’t alone in the issues we’ve been having with Amazon – nor are we alone in experiencing an ongoing lack of adequate response from Amazon about this issue.  

I found it VERY interesting that Amazon would only resolve Birkenstock’s complaint about counterfeit items **if Birkenstock was  willing to sign over their entire product catalog to Amazon**. Then, and only then, would Amazon take steps to remove the counterfeit sellers from their marketplace.  Signing over an entire product catalog to Amazon would give Amazon exclusive rights to retail Birkenstock.  Should I do that with bumGenius and Flip?  

Just for a minute, let’s think about the long term economic implications of their offer to only intervene if manufacturers give Amazon exclusive retail rights. How does that affect consumers?  How does that affect businesses?  How does that affect communities?  It’s not too hard to imagine a future where your local stores are forced to close their doors as more manufacturers move to give Amazon exclusive retail rights in an effort to “protect” their intellectual property.  Alternatively, manufacturers could move their catalogs off of Amazon’s website, and then, transparently to consumers, the counterfeit item wins the sale and eventually wins the economic battle.  The manufacturer loses all negotiating power.  The retailer selling authentic merchandise closes their doors.  Amazon wins all the money and everyone else has to fold their cards and quit playing.  That’s the ultimate end game for a retail marketplace.  Amazon has nailed it.  Target is losing money. Walmart’s annual reports blithely announce store closures while denying their impending doom. Kmart is practically gone. Independents are disappearing faster than they are appearing. Amazon is actually winning.  

Consumers want all the things, delivered to their home, conveniently, at any price, and faster than they could get to a store to buy it locally. And now that Amazon has eliminated their lower price claim, they actually think that you will buy this level of convenience quite literally AT ANY PRICE.  Maybe their boardroom has forgotten that the middle class is shrinking and more people are living in poverty in our country than ever before.  Consumers who are struggling to pay their bills will look for and find the least expensive price, even if it means waiting a few more days for their product to arrive or driving down the road to buy at Walmart.  An argument has been made in the media for contextual pricing because you’ll pay more for a Coke at a baseball game on a hot day than you will on a cold day.  You’ll pay even more for a cold Coke when there’s only one source and only a few Cokes.  But, the internet isn’t a hot baseball game with one place to buy a cold Coke.  And Amazon lives on the internet.

I’ve digressed.

Getting back to the point.  Amazon’s current system is feeding the success of the counterfeit items in defiance of our country’s own laws that are designed to ensure fair competition and product safety… to their almost exclusive financial benefit, while the courts look the other way.

I manufacture, wholesale, and retail some pretty amazing brands of cloth diapers… I’m a relatively small company and don’t matter that much to anyone at Amazon in the bigger scheme of things. But your child matters.  Safety matters.

Play this scenario out across toys… clothing items… carseats… and strollers… and anything else your baby uses.  Fake merchandise sells for a lower price for a reason… and it’s not because it’s safer.

And I want to be clear… before someone starts going off on me about where I have my products manufactured, this isn’t a case of my manufacturer making product and selling it out their back door.  We buy materials from the same sources and have done so for years.  Except for our inserts, all authentic Cotton Babies cloth diapers are made in Denver, Colorado and are extremely easy to identify if the consumer is familiar with our product lines.  The knockoffs aren’t made with our proprietary materials. They are constructed improperly.  The fabric is lightweight.  The tabs aren’t even made of a stretchy material.  The snap holes are drilled too large, and the snaps will pull through the fabric.  The snaps aren’t even the right color.  The prints are “off”.  And whoever made the diaper can’t spell.  This is a case of a manufacturer buying an authentic product from us, ripping it off (all the way down to the unique tracking label on the diaper they bought), and the “made in USA” brand label, and then selling it through Amazon’s marketplace as if it was real merchandise.  With the counterfeit diapers, the tracking numbers will return a result from our product tracking database because they bought one diaper with a number on it that works…. and then used that number repeatedly for the fake diapers.

It’s not often that I go to my blog to increase consumer awareness of issues like this.  We try to deal with people and businesses directly.  This situation has been no different.  I’ve tried to walk in the front door by using Amazon’s systems to report this problem.  We’ve gotten no response.  I’ve tried to walk in the side door by contacting a company they own, Quidsi, to report this issue and request their intervention.  They are good people, and, while they’ve responded, we’ve gotten nowhere with Amazon even with their support.  I’ve tried to walk in the back door by emailing Jeff Bezos directly on several different occasions.  Again, no response.  I’ve tried over and over again. No response.

So here we are.  Consumers are only hearing about this information as manufacturers decide to start exposing the problem and then only if the media decides to talk about it.

How can you help?  Support your local small businesses.  Be wise and do your research.  Most importantly, only shop for products with retailers that are listed as “authorized retailers” on a brand’s website.  Post publicly viewable reviews on Amazon’s website if you’ve received a counterfeit item.  Call or email your local news providers and tell them about the Birkenstock story.  Those news providers might not care about Cotton Babies and our cloth diaper brands, but everyone recognizes the Birkenstock brand.

And please, if you’re buying our cloth diaper brands, shop at an authorized independent retailer.  It’s worth waiting a day or two for your products to arrive to know the you’re receiving authentic merchandise that has a warranty.

A full list of authorized retailers for bumGenius, Flip, Econobum, Milkdaze and Elemum can be found here: http://www.bumgenius.com/retailers

Last, please amplify this issue directly to your friends and family. One very effective way to do that would be sharing this post right now by clicking the social sharing buttons below.

Do you have thoughts to add?

54 thoughts on “Counterfeit Baby Products At Amazon

    • The materials feel thinner and look different. It’s especially noticeable in the tabs. The snaps aren’t the right size or texture. The fabric just feels “off” compared to a real diaper.

      • I was looking over some flips I purchased in May for the flats handwashing challenge and the label says “myclo thdiopers.com” so I am returning them to amazon. They are issuing a full refund and paying for return shipping. I voiced my concern that they need to prevent this from happening and they claim to be looking into it. If enough people did this, they might decide to put the kibosh on the company supplying the fake flips.

          • I’m confused my Flip diapers that I purchased from cotton babies.com say cotton babies inc then they also say myclothdiapers.com

          • They should. The ones that are counterfeit right now probably said mycloth diopers.com.

  1. Thank you for posting this. I bought 2 flip covers on Prime day thinking I was just taking advantage of the discounts. These are the first Flips I’ve purchased and I wouldn’t have known the difference. I LOVE my BG Freetimes. They are our favorite diapers. I am writing negative reviews to warn others. I’m also having Amazon contact me by phone and threatening to drop my Prime subscription. This is why I pay $100/ year. I thought I could trust Amazon.

    • I would rather let Amazon solve the problem the right way. Leaving Amazon only further enables the counterfeiters.

  2. Do you know if the seller “fanfast” or “Quidsi Retail LLC” are legitimate sellers of flip cloth diaper covers/inserts?

  3. Thank you for this. I have definitely purchased some flip covers in the past and a Mary P. free time more recently from Amazon and I believe they have the “myclothdiapers.com” tab so I guess I received counterfeit product. I’ll have to take this up with amazon, but thank you for bringing it to my attention!

    • Right now, some of the counterfeit ones say “diopers”. It’s unlikely that Mary is a fraud. It hasn’t been long enough since that release for someone to get a copy out in the marketplace.

    • I have to double check my diapers, and my son is asleep in his room, but I wanted to verify… If I purchased from Quidsi, they are authentic? The Flip Covers I purchased were retail price from Quidsi & the Mary P. Free time was also retail from “Little Tots”.

      • Quidsi is Diapers.com and yes, they are an approved retailer and they have their own inventory warehouses. They don’t have to share space with FBA sellers – so their inventory is clean. Little Tots is also an approved retailer.

        • Thank you very much! I appreciate you taking the time to reply 🙂 (for the record, the only reason these ones got ordered on Amazon was that they were prints that were sold out on CB)

  4. Thank you for supporting the smaller retailers! There are a lot of things that people don’t get from Amazon when they shop there… like product support. Small businesses are, by their very nature, subject matter experts on the products they sell. <3

  5. I received 20 BG AIOs as a gift from my aunt who I know purchased through Amazon. How do I know if they are genuine BG?

  6. My wife referred me to your blog after seeing the bumgenius post on facebook. I was just wondering if you had tried to contact the IPR center (iprcenter.gov) yet to report the IP theft? I have a background investigating counterfeit products and I know this occurs on a regular basis. There was a similar case a few years ago with Ergobaby and a lot of counterfeits coming form China as well as thousands of fake websites popping up to sell the products. I know it can be a lengthy process and take time to investigate but if you haven’t explored that option yet it may be worth it. If anything, maybe they can subpoena the seller’s information from Amazon to attempt to identify the counterfeiters.

    • Thank you for your question, Ken. I have never heard of the IPR center. I will definitely look into it with my team.

      That said, I did go ahead and file a formal complaint with the FTC about this particular situation with Amazon last night. Outside of my own IP issues with Amazon, consumers deserve to know that they are getting authentic merchandise when they buy from Amazon. They have the right to choose to purchase counterfeit items (not to say the sale is legal, but the choice is there), but everyone knows that a $200 Hermes purse is fake. That’s not the case with Apple merchandise, our cloth diaper products, shampoo, conditioner, shoes, body care items, car seats, strollers, baby clothing, toys, and many other things. Amazon has inserted themselves into the chain of commerce in a way that leaves them responsible for moderating their community to ensure product safety, fair competition, and easy protections available to legitimate intellectual property rights owners. They’ve created a point of consumer confusion in an effort to drive profitability and sales. They use their terms of service as an escape mechanism to release themselves from that responsibility while flagrantly ignoring both consumer and manufacturer complaints that could help them clean up the mess.

      I’m just a mom, a blogger, and a small business owner. But this post has gone absolutely viral today and I hope, with all my heart, for all of the other small manufacturers who are watching their dreams disappear into the warehouses full of illegal, counterfeit items, that Amazon finally listens and makes some changes. I don’t have the money to sue them for damages against my company. But if we can shake the Internet, we will shake the Internet. And that’s what we – and a host of our businesses – did today. Praying it continues long enough that someone on their board of directors decided that it’s time to listen to us.

      An apology from Jeff Bezos for the months of ignoring our complaints would go a long way.

      A check to offset the lost revenue and lost market reputation incurred by the sales of terrible fraudulent items on their website would be amazing.

      Gating our brands so they can’t be listed against without the brand owners approval would help.

      A commitment to make it right by providing long term, no cost marketing support to authentic items – for free – to ALL MANUFACTURERS AFFECTED – would be a dream come true.

      It’s not likely to happen, but a girl can dream, right? 🙂

      • I completely agree. Amazon does have a responsibility and they do need to take action.

        As for the IPR Center, they work with agencies across the entirety of the U.S. government to investigate counterfeiting and piracy. I specifically worked in the Cyber Crimes group in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in Denver, CO. Outside of the Ergobaby case, in which we seized over a thousand website domain names and tons of counterfeit products, we also worked cases with the NFL to seize counterfeit merchandise that was being sold by vendors just outside of the stadium. On the iprcenter.gov site, at the bottom of their main page, is a link to the form that you, or your legal team, submits on your behalf. FYI, make sure whoever downloads it has the latest version of Adober PDF Reader or it won’t actually open.

        I am not sure how much help I can be but if you or your team have any questions feel free to email me and I will help any way that I can.

  7. The way to solve this, is orginal retailers and authentic sellers should start offering free shipping, if they did this it would eliminate the need for a third party seller like amazon. Ppl only go to amazon for reasonable or free shipping, you go to the actual sites and its a whopping 8$ for shipping which is quite ridiculous. You would make more money and gain more clientele if they worried less about making all profit and more about gaining back their customers. 15$ diapers are already expensive tack on the 6$ shipping youre paying atleast 21$ a diaper not very fair to the customer especially when im sure they cost maybe 5$ to make. Maybe companies should be less greedy upfront, bc if they truly cared about their customers theyd accomadate to their needs. Free or cheap shipping. Or maybe thats just me ill have 100$ worth of stuff in a basket but when shipping is over 10$ i conteplate if i even want the stuff anymore. Prices are already inflated, the least a company could do is pay for shipping. Its not like youre wanting free shipping on a furniture set its cloth diapers for heavens sake.

    • Cotton Babies, where all BG/Flip products are sold has free shipping all the time on any order. I’ve always ordered my BG’s from them because of that.

  8. Hi Jennifer, would it be possible to put together a post with pictures showing the differences between the real ones and the counterfeits? We are new to cloth diapers. I’m actually not even pregnant yet, but we’re trying and I’m stocking up when I find deals and sales. I am not familiar enough with the diapers to know the difference, and I imagine others will be in the same boat. I know this doesn’t solve the bigger issue, but in the short term, it would help consumers distinguish between the real and the fake so we can identify and return the counterfeits. Thank you!

  9. Amazon is profiting from illegal sales of my ISSUED US patent and they refuse to respond or divulge infringing seller identifying info. They think they are above the law. This has to stop. I applaud you for your efforts!

  10. I just read your post yesterday and picked up some secondhand Flip covers today. Three of the five say made in Egypt. And two don’t have the tracking tag as well the logo tag is facing the other way and doesn’t look the same. I’m assuming the three made in Egypt are counterfeit? This is definitely unfortunate for your brand, and lots of others, but I’m finding it sort of fascinating too. Counterfeiters are devious!

  11. I support your message, but your comments about Amazon’s shipping methods just aren’t how things work. Amazon uses what the business calls “chaotic storage,” a method which is detailed here: http://www.ssi-schaefer.de/blog/en/order-picking/chaotic-storage-amazon/.

    The big thing (that as a member of the babywearing community, I’ve been pushing for years) is to encourage people to find product that says “shipped from and sold by Amazon.” This has been happening for years, most particularly with a certain brand of baby carrier, and it’s been something I’ve been educating vigorously about because while a substandard cloth dipe might disintigrate in the wash, a substandard baby carrier could literally kill a baby. Imagine if Amazon really *did* dump all the carriers together in a bin, and accidentally sold someone a counterfeit carrier while fulfilling an order that was “shipped from and sold by Amazon.” Then that carrier fails catastrophically and a baby falls and is killed. Amazon wouldn’t open itself to that liability. The 3rd party seller thing, though, gives them plausible deniability, especially as all of that is spelled out in the T&Cs for the site. Or imagine that you decided to pull your product and have them send it back, and they sent you back a pile of knockoffs. They know that opens them up to all sorts of liability, and their priority is to protect themselves.

    There are a lot of stories out there about how they run their fulfillment centers. A good one is here: http://www.wired.com/2014/06/inside-amazon-warehouse/

    I don’t work for Amazon in any capacity, nor do any of my family members. I’m simply a (mostly) happy customer for 16 years, a Prime subscriber since day 1, and a babywearing educator who’s been fighting this battle over counterfeits since at least 2011. I *am*, however, a parent who kept three kids exclusively in cloth and used a lot of BGs. 2.0 pockets with my oldest in 2008 (purchased used) but we weren’t Velcro fans so we switched. Discovered Freetimes with my 2nd in 2011 and switched our whole stash (purchased new from one of your awesome small retailers) from pockets because I loved them so much. #3 in 2014 we used fitteds mostly, and loved the Flip covers over them because they fit so well with that touch of stretch. Our “diaper bag” dipes were BGEs (purchase used); DS was sensitive to the microsuede, and I realized I loved the organic cotton. He was mostly PL’d before the age of 2 (I credit cloth dipes) but we still use our BGEs at night. I have an “Albert” wetbag that will never leave because I love the print so stinking much and “the calculus diaper” was always our favorite (I think we had 5 or 6 of them at one point) so it carries good memories. We loved our cloth journey and appreciate BG’s part in it.

    But I also have a thing about misinformation, so I had to write this. I hope you take it in the educational spirit in which it was intended. Thank you!

    • Thank you for your thoughts.

      Just as support for the post I wrote above, here are other stories or guides that describe the issue in great detail. The Birkenstock CEO’s letter has been removed from ScribD, but it’s still readable in the original article linked in my blog post about that story:

      http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-struggling-to-keep-counterfeits-off-market-retailer-says/

      http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/20/birkenstock-quits-amazon-in-us-after-counterfeit-surge.html

      http://mashable.com/2016/07/20/birkenstock-amazon-counterfeit

      http://www.cpcstrategy.com/blog/2014/05/commingling-amazon-fba/

      (This link describes the various storage and fulfillment processes used by Amazon.)

      I hope this helps to clarify more information for you about the various ways Amazon does business and the risks involved in shopping there, regardless of the type of product you’re buying. You’re not wrong. There’s just more to the story that isn’t necessarily immediately obvious. I hope this helps.

    • An Amazon seller who sends merchandise to Amazon FBA warehouses, can choose non-commingling. That means that only merchandise sent in by that seller will be sent out if a buyer purchased from that seller, but other sellers can also offer their merchandise from that very same catalog page.

      In theory, everything has to be identical for a seller to list from that very same catalog page. In practice, this is not always followed.

      Even if seller chooses non-commingling, Amazon did some strange mixes in the past, although they were not supposed to.

      As for other items: purchasing only “sold by Amazon.com” items is not a guarantee either any longer.

      As Amazon spreads her / its wings in China, they are hiring more and more Chinese people there, many end up in the Amazon Vendor program and they do not check carefully if they purchase some knock-off of a Made in USA products – or they are very well aware, they just do not care at all. So that won’t be a solution either.

    • Please read this Amazon seller message board thread: this appears to be a new emerging trend.

      A counterfeiter sells the item to Amazon Vendor program with his contacts (very likely Chinese) and hides behind Amazon Direct, does not even bother with Amazon FBA where at least their fantasy storefront name shows up, although not much else is given out to potential buyers or even to real buyers.

      Hiding behind the Amazon Direct Vendor program will give them an additional layer of protection.

      https://sellercentral.amazon.com/forums/thread.jspa?threadID=311047&tstart=0

  12. The first step I would suggest is to change any further merchandise to “non-commingled” You will use a separate barcode from the commingled inventory. This will 99.9% of the time ensure that when a customer orders from a particular seller that they only receive the items that seller sent to fulfilment. It does take longer for the inventory to be distributed across fulfilment centers but is worth it. Once you have those items distributed, recall existing commingled stock and anything you receive back that is not yours or is fake, request Amazon to reimburse you. They will. This can help but the bigger issue is still there. Amazon has been bending over backwards to court China and this has opened up a never ending stream of issues. I wish you the best of luck.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Sam. We are working with Amazon actively now to get this resolved. Their support in response to our concerns has been admirable since this post was written. That said, without issuing new UPC codes (which affects every buyer and requires a complete turnover of all inventory in the entire industry, not just Amazon’s stock) Amazon’s site does say that, once inventory is commingled, there’s no way to step it back.

    • Plenty of reports of products being commingled even when you have requested not to. CB can create new listings with new UPCs, but it doesn’t stop the fakes. She has to purchase from each listing and each seller to shut down that one seller for that one product. It’s an extremely time consuming game of whack-a-mole. The floodgates have opened and the Chinese can open new accounts much faster than Amazon is willing to shut them down.

  13. I forgot to mention. Mine was an ebay purchase, not Amazon but the product probably originated from the same factory since they have the same botched tag.

  14. This is an even bigger issue with baby carriers, where the illegal products are putting babies’ lives in danger. Amazon truly does not care about safety or legality.

  15. Amazon listens to their customers more than they do their sellers, sadly, so please please Amazon customers, keep voicing your opinion to Amazon and demand that they change their practices of practicing and condoning fraud. Amazon is completely out of line with their current business practices and they need to know that buyers will not tolerate buying from a retailer that engages in fraudulent practices.

  16. Have you considered brand registration? As I understand it, registering your brand with Amazon allows you to control who has permission to sell your products on the site. An increasing number of brands are restricted for Amazon sellers (it was quite the topic this fall, just Google “Brandgate” if you want to know more.) While that’s not going to entirely stop counterfeiters – they can and will create new listings for their phony merchandise – they will not be able to list on legitimate catalog pages for your goods. Anyone who wishes to sell your products will need to provide a letter to Amazon, from an appropriate source, stating they are an approved reseller. For some products, they also need to pay a fee (say, $1-3k. Who gets that money? I do not know.) I do suspect it will cost you money, I’m only a seller so I only know what Amazon has stated publicly.