/ Shopping, Technology

Have you ever been fooled by an iFake?

As Christmas edges ever closer, many of us are on the hunt for that elusive bargain. However, sometimes what we think is a good deal can turn out to be a cheap copy of the real thing.

Although you might not realise it at the time, buying a cheap iPhone or iPad could mean you’re actually buying a fake. There are ways to tell if the product you’re buying is genuine or not, and you can visit our Which? Tech Daily blog or watch the video below for some pointers.

The traditional setting for buying fake goods used to be a car boot sale, the market or a dark back alley. But these days, it’s possible to buy fakes from a wide range of places online – even reputable sites like Amazon and eBay are at the mercy of what their third-party sellers offer.

You might purchase a fancy new pair of headphones or a smartphone in good faith online, only to be sent a shoddy replica.

I don’t want a replica

It would be fair to say that the standard of fake goods varies immensely. The counterfeit iPhones we got hold of looked pretty convincing, while the iPad version (dubbed ‘iRobot’) looked more like a childs toy than a cutting edge tablet. The inclusion of an Apple logo on the case didn’t do much to convince us that it was the real deal.

Both the iPad and iPhone used an Android operating system, and actually worked… after a fashion. However, they would be little substitute for Apple’s own genuine devices.

Some products did a remarkably good job at imitating their official versions. The Nintendo DS Lite fake was virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, and even worked in the same way, happily playing DS games like we would expect it to.

However, unlike the real product, it hadn’t been subjected to the rigorous safety tests before being sold in the UK. As such, you’d be unlikely to want to put in the hands of your child.

Can you get your money back?

Aside from the safety aspect of buying knock-off technology, and the lack of function, there’s also the cost. If you do find that you have unwittingly purchased a fake, the chances of a refund are pretty slim.

But it’s not all bad news. If you purchase the product using a credit card, your credit card company will protect the purchase if it’s over £100. Not much comfort if you paid cash to someone at a car boot sale though.

Have you ever unknowingly bought a fake product? If so, where did you buy it from? Did you get your money back?

How confident would you be at spotting a good fake gadget?

I'm quite knowledgeable about tech and could take an educated guess (30%, 51 Votes)

I wouldn’t know an iPhone from an iPhoney (30%, 51 Votes)

I dabble with tech, so I'm not sure I could spot a good fake (19%, 32 Votes)

I'm a tech expert and could spot a fake a mile off (15%, 25 Votes)

I don't know (7%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 171

Loading ... Loading ...

Personally I don’t buy the “latest” gadgets as I don’t fancy being an unpaid tester. Now if they want to give me a free ithis, ithat for me to test for them. Or even pay me to test then that’s a different story. Just like I’m not impressed with the which? xmas cut back comp, clearly I’m a free tester for that, it doesn’t support Google chrome.

Eek! Sorry if you’re having problems with the comp, William. It works OK for me in Chrome but if you can give me a bit more detail about the problems you’re having I’ll see if I can tweak to fix it!

In the meantime, I don’t want anyone to miss out on the chance to join in so if you want to email your submission to which.campaigns @ which .co.uk I’ll add you into the draw.

Update: I’ve just worked out what you mean – it’s an issue with how our CMS reacts to Chrome in this situation. I’m getting it fixed but in the meantime here’s a link that should work for you in Chrome:


Sorry about that!

Mobile Manufacturers says:
7 December 2011

Mobile phone manufacturers have put together a website to help educate consumers on how to “spot a fake” at http://www.spotafakephone.com. It also includes information on what to look out for when buying batteries and other accessories.

Thanks I found the code in the webpage, it does work fine with ie 8 though, 3 cheers ( for once) for Microsoft.

There are huge numbers of fake memory cards out there, which physically look pretty much idetnical to the real thing.

i’ve found it very risky to buy memory from amazon marketplace and ebay – i’ve had more fakes than genuine cards. worth paying a bit extra for a reputable seller.
if i am allowed to recommend one 7dayshop.com is pretty cheap and always genuine (though delivery isn’t very fast)

David Thomas says:
10 December 2011

My wife believes that she was taken in by a fake item – me! She has been getting her money back ever since.

Yes, I was taken in by an advert on eBay. “Genuine Sony laptop battery” shown with a photo of a genuine Sony battery – but in reality was a poor copy which arrived a month later direct from Hong Kong with no resemblance even to the Sony product. Pursued with PayPal as the credit card company but they found in favour of the rogue trader because they insist that they will only consider a claim if you get “expert” sworn statements from Sony within a very short timescale to the effect that it is not genuine – and of course nobody is prepared to do that for you. Photographic evidence of the 2 products is not accepted. Discovered PayPal’s “Customer Protection” to be absolutely useless and ineffectual and in itself misleading. So the moral is to always pay top price from a main dealer.

Thanks for sharing this information, Kev. It seems incredible that you were treated in this way, but I am not surprised. Perhaps if enough people report problems the rogue trader will be closed down. I hope others have had more success in pursuing claims.

You need to be very careful with laptop batteries because even genuine ones can have safety issues and there have been a few recalls because of overheating.

I bought a laptop power adapter from an eBay trader with a good reputation. The photo showed an Apple product and what I received was very different. The mains plug had no fuse, so I replaced it with an Apple plug, which has a fuse.

What I received looked the same as most of the others on offer from other eBay suppliers. I suspect that there is plenty of unsafe electrical equipment on sale online.

Next time I will buy Apple parts from Apple, as I always have done before and after this purchase.

I bought a fake set of Sennheiser earphones from a dealer in Amazon Market. They looked convincing but the appalling sound quality was a giveaway. A U-Tube unboxing video of the product identified is as a fake.
I complained top Amazon customer services who advised me to contact the seller direct. I did and had my money reimbursed after returning the product.
The seller was new to Amazon market and by this stage had accumulated a number of complaints. He is no longer listed on Amazon market.
Kev’s comments on PayPal’s response to a fake Sony battery sold on e-bay are of concern. That is that an expert sworn statement is needed from the manufacturer before PayPal will reimburse. I notified Sennheiser customer service of my fake purchase and asked for advice. I received no reply. If the manufacturer doesn’t play ball it makes PayPal’s “guarantees” meaningless.

It would be useful to find out if PayPal does require evidence from a manufacturer if a customer has very clear evidence, such as photos, that a product is fake. (See Kev’s message above regarding a fake laptop battery)

Would Jack or one of the Which? team be able to get some input or encourage a representative of PayPal to post a response on this site?

I bought a fake CD player whilst on holiday several years ago, so no chance to return for a refund. The player was not cheap so I did not suspect it was fake. I now only buy from known sources and hope not to get caught again. Re some of the comments above, I only buy from Ebay from UK suppliers and check out the other items they have on offer to see if they look genuine.

Not a fake but probably refurbished – I took a calculated risk and purchased a Samsung Note 4 from China using e-bay. The price for a new phone was about a third of the UK price. The phone was from a company specialising in phones and supposedly came with 6 months warranty. Having searched and read feedback for the buyer on this model I was reasonably confident that I would get a working phone but highly suspicious that it would be a clone. The phone arrived shrink wrapped in the correct packaging (checked images on Google) and I checked the imei and serial # with Samsung who confirmed that it was right for the model. I also installed a couple of Apps that claimed to check the phone was genuine. All checked out OK. One month later the letters started falling off the back cover. I wasn’t alarmed because I had seen this issue with a genuine Samsung phone from a UK network. The cover was replaced promptly under warranty. Two months in and the battery failed. It was cheaper to replace than send it back (plus issue with LiON in the post). Five and half months in and the phone has died (searching the web showed that this is a common issue with the phone and seems to be related to the MM upgrade). I am waiting a reply from the seller in China but am not holding my breath. The probability of getting these three issues with a new phone is very low. Suspicions raised, I have now checked the headphones and charger that were bundled with the phone and these are for the earlier Note 3. My guess is that reconditioned phones may being passed off as new and packaged with counterfeit packaging and packed with accessories that are genuine Samsung but not those normally supplied with the phone.

My guess is that I will be out of pocket by £250 (minus the sale of the phone for spares or repair), as I’m unlikely to get my money back from ebay, paypal or Amex if the company in China doesn’t deliver on the guarantee.

Maybe there are genuine products being misrepresented and supported by counterfeit packaging.

This comment was removed at the request of the user