The issue of counterfeits and clones in relation to vaping gear is a hot topic. Within a very short time of a new mod or other equipment being released these days, clones are available – but sometimes they aren’t just clones. Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but counterfeiting is just plain nasty in my view.
The Difference Between Counterfeit And Clone
The clone debate is a passionate one with both the for and against sides having valid points. However, the difference in the situation between clone and counterfeit in my opinion is quite distinct.
Cloning is where a product looks quite similar to the one it emulates; but there will be some differences; even if minor.
Counterfeit is where the product and/or marketing of the product claims or strongly alludes to the item being authentic. This can be in the form of particular markings that should be unique to the authentic product, or by using identical packaging – and in the case of either; omitting the fact in accompanying materials that it isn’t authentic.
An exception may be where whatever the product is called has become so commonplace, it’s pretty much become part of general vaping language to identify a family of products.
- eGo battery – often refers to a clone and it’s a term in common use – a standard industry term nowadays, so identifying as clone is no longer necessary. “eGo” now commonly refers to a type of threading, rather than a specific company’s product.
- A JoyeTech eGo battery that isn’t, but the “JoyeTech” brand name is used in marketing or on the product. This is counterfeit.
Counterfeit Vaping Gear Can Be Hard To Spot
As an example of how difficult it can be to spot counterfeit gear, I’ll use a recent case relating to Aspire products.
At the time of writing, it’s been difficult to source fresh Aspire stock as the manufacturer has long lead times due to demand – up to 40 days. That means from the time of ordering to the time the goods arrive at an Australian vendor’s premises, it can be as long as 50 days.
I stock Aspire and my “plan B” was to start looking around at wholesalers in China where I could purchase some Aspire related consumables in quantity if the need arose. It would likely be more expensive than buying direct, but I would prefer that than to run out of stock.
In one popular online marketplace, there seemed to be plenty of Aspire coils available. However, while one in particular I reviewed carried the Aspire name and even the trademark symbol on the packaging, something wasn’t quite right. In the image below, the difference in blister pack backing was a flag, but there were a couple of other subtle differences as well.
A few pointed questions to the wholesaler revealed these items were not Aspire at all – they were “clones”; but given the coil packaging was nearly identical; they were counterfeits in my opinion. I’ve come to expect a certain level of quality from Aspire, but if I had imported these counterfeit items, I would have had no idea of their quality.
The Cost Of Counterfeiting
We’re all used to the cries of companies that fall victim to counterfeiting. Yes, it costs them money – but it’s not just about profits in their pocket – it can also have a direct impact on the customer and others too.
Back in the very early days of setting up VapeFox, I ordered some “brand” items at a good price from a wholesaler, thinking I was getting a bit of a bargain and would be able to pass on some of the savings to my customers. I then tested the items – they were awful and I refused to stock them. It turned out they were counterfeit.
A major problem with counterfeiting is one of quality. Let’s say I had stocked these items, untested – many customers would have been disappointed; which not only reflects poorly on VapeFox but also on the component brand.
Genuine Item A may be of very good quality, but if Counterfeit Item B is of low quality – the mud can still stick on the genuine manufacturer; which is entirely unfair. The customer may be left with a lasting impression that the manufacturer makes, well, crap – and never purchases from either the vendor or that brand again. That customer may tell others of their experience – such as in online reviews.
I believe counterfeiting plays a significant role in the wide range of reviews relating to a particular product. While “your mileage may vary” even with authentic products and user issues can factor in, plus a variety of other variables; the knock-on effects of counterfeiting in this respect are considerable. Beyond the general user experience, there’s also an equally important issue – safety.
Counterfeiting can also stifle innovation by the brands we know and trust. If revenue isn’t flowing to the brand, it can reduce the resources available for further research and development; not to mention the impact on staff, staffing levels, quality assurance and other aspects that help the manufacturer’s business evolve.
Vendor And Customer Awareness
While in the example of the Aspire coils above, the difference in packaging was a flag; it’s not a 100% reliable way to gauge authenticity as counterfeit items may be represented by the genuine manufacturer’s image. Also, manufacturers can change packaging and products at the drop of a hat – so an item that may look counterfeit may actually be authentic.
It’s important for vendors to determine the source of the goods they purchase. While sourcing direct from the manufacturer may not always be possible; the manufacturer can be contacted in order to confirm whoever the wholesaler is sources from the manufacturer. While it still doesn’t 100% guarantee authenticity (product swaps can occur); it helps.
I believe vendors should also make it very clear if a product they advertise isn’t the real deal in their marketing. Let the consumer make an informed purchase decision – this helps to manage customer expectations.
On the customer side of things, consumers should contact vendors to gain reassurance that a product is authentic if they have doubts. Proof can be in the form of the contact details of a representative of the manufacturer who can vouch for the vendor.
If it turns out the item is counterfeit, take into consideration the vendor may not have known; i.e. it may not have been intentional deception – but recommend the vendor exercises a little more due diligence in purchasing and makes corrections to the listing.
When shopping for vaping gear, also bear in mind the wisdom of old: if a deal seems to good to be true, it often is.
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