‘Fake UGG boots website ripped me off’
I had saved my pocket money and cash presents from grandparents for months. I had a good idea what UGG boots cost in the shops. This was more than I could pay, so I searched for cheaper ones online. The internet was inundated with options all much cheaper than in the shops.
One site called caught my eye near the top of the search engine results. It looked convincing. Unlike some of the other sites, the UGG Australia logo was emblazoned across the site.
I thought it was the UK branch of the official UGG store. The information appeared genuine lifted from the real UGG Australia site probably and the pictures looked real. Best of all the boots were less than half the price of the ones in the shop.
My parents were surprised that UGG boots were selling so cheaply, so told me to ask where exactly the boots were coming from. The response was quick. An email from someone called Victoria told me they were coming from the UGG factory in China. I had done my research, and I knew UGG boots were made in China, so that didn’t arouse suspicion.
Then my parents told me to ask about import duties. Again, I received a prompt reply from Victoria to say there were no import duties. We placed the order using a Visa card and I paid back the cash to my parents.
The boots took about two weeks to arrive. When they did, just looking at the box told me that they were fakes, and opening the box was worse. The ’sheepskin fur’ stank of aerosol paint and came off easily. I had been cheated.
I went back to the website to see how to complain and only then did I notice that there was no address or telephone number. I emailed my complaint.
She told me I could tell my boots were real sheepskin by setting fire to a little of the fur it would burn to a powder, proof she said that they were sheepskin. I did not set fire to the boots, however, because I have found out that real sheepskin is flame resistant.
Victoria said I could only get my money back by posting the boots at my own expense to the factory in China and allowing them to keep a ‘restocking’ fee. This seemed like throwing good money after bad. There was a phone number, address and email address too. I emailed the customer service division of the UK branch of UGG Australia and asked them about the website that had conned me. The email also said: ‘We are aware of this company and both our Legal team and UGG Australia’s legal team are working on having this page removed.’
That was some time ago but the fake website is still there. In fact it is offering even better ‘bargains’ now. The only difference is that it no longer comes up with an ordinary web search customers have to look specifically for it. There are, however, plenty of other realistic looking fake sites which feature prominently on searches for Uggs and only a domain check will unmask them.
This is more than some consumers will know to do. So I decided to find out what Deckers Outdoor Corporation in the US was doing to protect its UGG brand.
Deckers is suing a rival American company, Bearpaw, for making boots which it says look like UGG boots. Angel Martinez, Deckers’ chairman, said: ‘The strong bond between UGG Australia and its retail customers goes beyond commerce. It is about trust . Knock off companies and counterfeiters are confusing the consumers and betraying their trust.’
But I wanted to know how the counterfeiters in China were being tackled. A spokesman for Deckers told me the company had shut down over 11,000 fake boot sellers on eBay and 304,000 from other websites last year. The company adde: ‘These numbers should give you a sense of how pernicious these counterfeiters are and how computer savvy.’
The company also cooperates with customs to conduct investigations in China and factory raids, the spokesman claimed. I offered Deckers the name and address of the factory which had conned me. I could have given Deckers several names and addresses of counterfeiters. Deckers did not respond, however.
The Deckers spokesman suggested I could have protected myself by using the police or Trading Standards or a Better Business Bureau. I have not been able to find any advice from Trading Standards about UGG boots and it seemed doubtful that the police could involve themselves with criminals in China. Better Business Bureau is a US organization which is not active here.
UGG Australia’s website provides information about counterfeit products and a list of approved retailers. It is not entirely easy to tell which is the genuine UGG website, however, so people will continue to be conned before they spot this.
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