The problem isn’t just with Google. The report also names search engines Bing, Baidu, and Yaidex as culprits in the fake results, but the research does indicate that Google, specifically, isn’t removing the websites that host the fakery. Sites like Amazon and Facebook are legally required to remove the sites that sell fake goods, but there is a loophole that allows search engines to ignore the practice, allowing the fake goods to continue being sold.
This is where the brand problem begins because while some consumers may not care that their Louis Vuitton bag is a fake, others may not realize that their ‘designer bag’ is fake at first, or they may blame the real brand for selling something that isn’t legitimate.
“As well putting consumers at risk, the counterfeit trade jeopardises the business of genuine producers. OECD data suggests the counterfeit trade is worth more than $500bn a year and it is high time search engines played their part in putting a stop to the fakers, rather than encouraging them to proliferate through inaction,” said Simon Bags, Co-Founder & CEO, Incopro. “Consumers are at risk of buying counterfeit and possibly harmful products, as a result of clicking through in good faith from results generated by search engines they trust. At best, these products will be poor quality or below-standard; at worst, they put consumers at risk of harm, particularly in industries such as pharmaceuticals or safety goods.”
Just how big is the problem? The study researchers found that 6 in 10 results for pharma searchers for Bactrim led to ‘locations very likely’ to operate outside the law. They also found that about one-third of the results for infant and toddler products were for fake goods.
Google accounts for the bulk of search queries, holding a 92% share of search engine share globally, and according to some reports, search engine results are one of the main ways consumers find products. For example, one study finds that about 45% of consumers click-through to the first few search results generated from their query.
Incopro believes search engines must become more diligent about de-indexing sites that are selling counterfeit goods.