I bought a copycat product by mistake

by , Senior Home Researcher Consumer Rights 12 April 2013
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Have you ever got your shopping home, to find that a big-name branded product you thought you’d picked up was actually an own-label lookalike? It’s happened to me, and our new research shows I’m not alone.

Lookalike supermarket products

Own-label products that look like well-known brands are far from rare. In our investigation into lookalike packaging, we found over 150 products from Aldi, Asda, Boots, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Superdrug and Tesco that we think look all too familiar.

That might be why a fifth of Which? members have bought a ‘copycat’ product at least once.

It’s easy to do, especially if you’re in a rush, as I was when shopping in my local Lidl a few months ago. I grabbed a bottle of what I thought was Sarson’s Malt Vinegar off the shelf, only to get home and discover it was actually Samson Vinegar, a Lidl own-label product.

Bubble bath lookalikes

Not stopping for long enough to notice the finer details of the bottle, I’d simply picked up on the fact that the Samson and Sarson’s labels are the same shade of brown, and have remarkably similar names. Though on reflection, the fact that it cost about 30p for a large bottle probably should have been a clue that I wasn’t buying a well-known brand.

Are lookalikes a good thing?

On the one hand, I felt a bit foolish for having bought the wrong product, and certainly thought it was cheeky of Lidl to sell something so similar to the brand leader. But really, things hadn’t worked out too badly for me – I’d only spent around 30p on my mistake, and the vinegar turned out to be perfectly adequate. At that price, and without being able to identify much of a difference between the two products, I’ll probably try it again.

When we asked our members what they thought of ‘copycat products’, many recognised that they can be both a good and a bad thing for consumers. One said:

‘Own-brand products should be distinctly marked to display that they are own-brand. To use the same colours, images and shapes as the market leaders do is, to me, confusing the consumer.’

But another said:

‘Similar packaging actually assists me in finding the type of product I am shopping for.’

Many felt that while some own-label products can’t match up to the brands on quality, other own-label products are just as good as the brands, and are often cheaper.

Have you been caught out by lookalike packaging, and how did you feel once you found out? Have you spotted some own-label products that you think go too far in mimicking a leading brand?

What do you think about shops copying branded products?

I think it’s fine – they’ve never confused me (56%, 298 Votes)

I think it’s wrong – they shouldn’t piggy-back on other brands (44%, 227 Votes)

Total Voters: 531

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156 comments

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james

I`m not saying the products are bad but copying someone`s packaging is just total DECEPTION

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wavechange

If you have made a mistake and bought the wrong product in a supermarket perhaps it is reasonable to ask for an exchange. Perhaps it’s time for the brand leaders to spend less effort on designing fancy packaging and on advertising and more effort on delivering value for money. That would help a lot of customers. If the law is being broken then legal action can be taken, but no doubt the customer will have to foot the bill. Perhaps we should look at it as a bit of fun.

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