Seemingly Never-Ending Battle Against Transactions of Big-Name Cosmetics Empty Bottles

Recently, a criminal gang sold out genuine cosmetics by purchasing a large number of their empty bottles that were adulterated and diluted, with illegal gains amounting to more than $4.7337 million. Given recycling empty bottles of genuine cosmetics, enterprises and platforms should play their role in cracking down on the industry chain of manufacturing and selling fake cosmetics.

Recently, a district-level people’s court in Jiangsu Province, China, announced a case of selling cosmetics “fakes in real bottles”. After investigation, the gang involved in the case sold out genuine cosmetics by purchasing a large number of their empty bottles that were adulterated and diluted from China’s second-hand exchange websites, in the name of the versions of daigou in different regions to sell at low prices in China’s online shopping platforms, with an amount of illegal income of more than $4.7337 million.

According to the notice, from 2016 to early July 2020, the three defendants made cosmetics with counterfeit registered trademarks by purchasing empty bottles of cosmetics with registered trademarks, genuine cosmetics, and raw materials that were used to manufacture cosmetics without the permission of the owners of registered trademarks such as “LA MER”, “Sisley”, “SK-II”, “La Prairie” and “Estée Lauder”. And then they sold them by diluting genuine cosmetics and filling them into empty bottles.

It was found that between July 2018 and July 2020, the gang’s illegal business turnover reached more than $4.7337 million. In the end, the court sentenced the three defendants to prison terms ranging from four years, three years and two months, and two years and six months respectively for the crime of counterfeiting registered trademarks, confiscating all illegal gains, and fining them a total of $1.3132 million.

The court judge said that this criminal gang equipped themselves with a certain knowledge of cosmetics sales. Therefore, to dispel consumers’ concerns, they often deceive consumers by claiming that these goods are different versions of cosmetics, defective products of brands, and obtained from special channels.

When consumers verify whether the cosmetics they buy are genuine, they usually tell from the container (bottle). Therefore, recycling empty bottles of big-name cosmetics have become a criminal industrial chain. After using the product, some consumers will sell empty bottles on Chinese second-hand exchange websites with empty bottle selling from a few dollars to dozens of dollars. Then, the bottles used by consumers will be especially collected and sold to the criminal gangs that make and sell counterfeits.

“We’ve also gotten in touch with brands and learned that they will not offer empty bottle recycling.” The case was disclosed by the police. In this regard, Chen Yinjiang, the deputy secretary-general of the Consumer Rights and Interests Protection Law Research Association of the China Law Society, analyzed that cosmetics companies may be able to provide a feasible solution to the problem of cosmetics in terms of “fakes in real bottles”.

It is a burden for businesses as the cost of recycling empty bottles of cosmetics is too high. However, the fact that enterprises can be guided or encouraged to recycle empty bottles is not only a manifestation of environmental protection but also conducive to enterprises safeguarding their interests and cracking down on the production and sale of counterfeits.

In addition to the brand itself, second-hand trading websites and other platforms should also play a good role in their regulatory mechanism for the empty bottle trading of cosmetics. The account of the person who has recovered the empty bottle on the platform can be monitored and warned. Asking whether the account receives the agreement of recycling empty bottles from brands, if not receives, then the platform can show that the account is “dangerous” on the account homepage, so that consumers will be vigilant.


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