The other day I was surfing the web to find the best price for my favorite moisturizer and I was amazed at the price differential between one vendor and another.

As my mouse was hovering over the “Proceed to Checkout” button, I began to question the reason for this huge disparity in cost. I abruptly redirected my mouse to select a new tab where I began my research and this is what I learned.

If you purchase products from an unauthorized seller, the manufacturer will not guarantee the authenticity of the ingredients and hence, the efficacy of the product. The warranty, if you try to complain to an authorized seller, will be null and void.

Goods sold by unauthorized sellers may, in fact, be the genuine article — or not. Unauthorized sellers are able obtain these products through numerous channels that include purchasing goods from overseas markets, clearance sales or returns from authorized dealers in the United States. A more iniquitous possibility is that they were stolen from one of the brand owner’s normal distribution channels.

Fortunately, brand owners are not completely without recourse and their first line of defense might be to adopt and publish a concrete warranty policy, list authorized dealers on their website and/or employ product markers that will allow for tracking goods through the distribution chain. Available legal options include trademark and copyright infringement.

What does this all mean for the consumer? The possible repercussions of purchasing goods from an unauthorized seller include the risk of having paid for an inferior product that is not returnable, suffering pangs of guilt due to contributing to undermining the manufacturer’s/brand owner’s profits and reputation and enabling the continuation of these questionable practices. As for this consumer, my moral compass will permanently steer me to authorized dealers exclusively from this day forward.

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