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Counterfeits on Amazon cost Warren bird feeder business $1.5M

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WARREN, R.I. (WPRI) — Aspects has been in business for decades, manufacturing bird feeders that come with a lifetime guarantee.

So in 2016, when a customer called about a defective hummingbird feeder, the Warren-based company took the complaint seriously.

“We went through the process of cutting the plastic and looking at all the different molding telltales and we realized it was not our product,” Trisha Torres, the CEO of Aspects, told Call 12 for Action.

Torres said the product was a counterfeit. She knew if there was one, there had to be others.

“We found that it was just rampant on Amazon,” Torres said.

In 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 3,828 counterfeit Aspects bird feeders in 68 cartons. Federal court records show Aspects won a permanent injunction against the LLC that made the shipment, but even now, Torres still finds fakes on Amazon.

“My customer service department has fielded hundreds of these calls,” Torres said. “People’s knee-jerk reaction is they are just angry at us. They think we’re not standing behind our product.”

The counterfeits are convincing, but there are subtle differences visually. The color of the box is slightly off, and the suction cups appear to be made of a different material.

There are also clues in the Amazon listings. The description for an Aspects knock-off that’s currently for sale says “Made in China.”

Amazon did not respond to Call 12 for Action’s questions about Aspects products, but recently the online retail giant acknowledged challenges with counterfeits from third-party sellers.

Amazon said in 2018 it blocked more than one million bad actor accounts and more than 3 billion suspected bad listings before they were published.

In a statement on its website, Amazon also said its employees “work hard every day to help ensure all products offered in our store are safe and authentic.”

Torres says it’s not enough.

“We probably, in all of the time that this has happened, lost probably about $1.5 million in sales,” she said. “Even more than that, what bothers us the most is that what it has done to our brand. We’re very proud of who we are.”

Legitimate Aspects products are for sale on Amazon, though. Torres said she encourages customers to verify the seller is legitimate before placing any orders.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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