Chinese online discount retailer Vipshop has refuted claims that it is selling counterfeit items on its platform, citing an authentication report from a government-backed enterprise as proof.
The company was embroiled in controversy after customers complained that the discounted Gucci belts they bought on Vipshop in March were marked as fake by resale platform Dewu. The belts, originally priced at 3300 yuan ($503), were sold at a discounted price of 2,549 yuan.
University student Wang Wei told Chinese media outlet Red Star News that he had wanted to earn a bit of cash by reselling the belt on Dewu after discovering that it did not fit him. The platform, which boasts a rigorous authentication process, has been gaining in popularity among Chinese consumers who use it to buy and sell genuine brand-name products.
However, Wang was shocked to find that Dewu had deemed the Gucci belt as counterfeit. When he contacted Vipshop, they reassured him that the item is 100% authentic and refused to issue him a refund. According to Red Star News, a total of 133 Gucci belts bought from Vipshop were marked as fake by Dewu.
“General third-party platforms are not equipped with authentication qualification and certifications. Their reports are not recognized by the brand and do not hold any legal power,” Vipshop said in a statement on its official Weibo account on Thursday.
“These belts are purchased directly through our brand suppliers overseas and are guaranteed to be authentic,” a company spokesperson told Red Star News.
At the same time, Vipshop immediately launched an investigation in response to the complaints and sent 11 Gucci belts for inspection. A report issued by the China Certification and Inspection Group’s Guangdong office on Wednesday concluded that the belts had met the brand standards.
“We guarantee that the products sold on the platform are authentic, but for the sake of our consumers’ shopping experience, we have agreed to issue refunds for them. They are also welcome to send the items for further authentication,” the company said in its statement.
However, a spokesperson from Gucci told Chinese media outlet Red Star News that Vipshop is not an authorized platform.
Established in 2008, Vipshop has grown into China’s leading online discounter of brands and boasts 83.9 million active customers in 2020. The NYSE-listed company, which is backed by Tencent, saw its net revenue rise 9.5% year-on-year in 2020 to 101.9 billion yuan ($15.6 billion).
However, the platform was fined three million yuan ($464,000) in February for unfair competition by Chinese market regulators following an investigation.
The State Administration for Market Regulation said Vipshop developed an “inspection system” to obtain information on brands that were also listed on rival e-commerce platforms. The company then used the system to influence consumer choices and alter operators’ page traffic to block sales and transactions.
The company said in a statement that it has accepted the penalty and will carry out efforts to update and regulate internal practices to maintain market order and protect the interests of consumers.