Will Brand-i be handy for making online shopping safer?

7 June 2011

We're trying to figure out whether this is a good idea that's been poorly executed, or whether it simply misses the point. The Trading Standards Institute has launched an online directory which aims to direct consumers to sites selling genuine goods. It's called Brand-i:

You can use our directory to help you find popular designer or branded clothing, perfume, shoes, music, sunglasses, etc. You can trust the online stores we’ve listed as they have been provided with the consent of the brands themselves.

Does it work? No. Or at least, not yet. Try a search for 'iPad' or 'Sony', and there are no results. Try a search for 'Chanel' and there's just one retail site suggested - Chanel's site. Searching for Adidas does reveal a list of sites apparently authorised by Adidas, but even that looks selective. It seems Brand-i has launched without actually building up a database of retailers yet.

Bitterwallet - Brand-i consumer website
That's detail, however. There's a bigger issue with Brand-i's premise: if it only features websites that are genuine, what happens if you want to check whether a website is actually a scam? That's what online shoppers really need, isn't it? Brands have to register with the site themselves, meaning there will be massive gaps in the data - so if a website isn't listed, does that mean it is a scam, or that Brand-i simply doesn't list it?

Consumers don't really need any help finding legitimate retailers; what they do want is reassurance if they have suspicions about a site; they want to turn somewhere to validate their suspicions. And they want to know that if they do report a site, that the information is acted on instead of being filed away by a disinterested clerk.

There is a Report Site option on Brand-i, but it doesn't actually inform Trading Standards about sites suspected of selling fake goods. Instead it passes the information on the brand that's been ripped off. How does that help the consumer?

The more you look at Brand-i, the more it looks like a site not to protect consumers, but to sell goods and protect businesses and brands. The reason may be because this site has only been produced 'in partnership' with Trading Standards, despite having TS plastered all over it. It's actually a private venture ran by Brand Information Limited, let by a director who operates an e-store on Amazon. So is it a consumer-focused site, or will it become an affiliate-led aggregator backed by a publicly funded association?

TOPICS:   Scams


  • Dick
    It will be an affiliate led aggregator of course. Isn't every website these days? Even Which¿
  • Andrew
    So it's just another we directory that will get abused for SEO purposes? Site is down so it must have been popular.
  • Jenny D.
    Hi Paul, I wanted to respond to your article because it raises some valid questions. Yes, the brands currently listed on the Brand-i site are limited. We are working on adding more, however these things take time with big corporations (months) and we wanted to get the information out that we did have - such as UGG Australia, etc, which is one of those that constantly catches people out, and that Trading Standards deal with regular enquiries about. You ask how can consumers check if a website is a scam rather than just searching for legitimate sites? There are increasingly internet forums that are willing to speculate about fake sites - one is the Harpers Bazaar-run Fakes Are Never in Fashion - who have a twitter account that helps consumers establish whether a site is fake or not (they obviously have a huge legal team behind them too). This can be useful. In addition people do have to learn how to spot fake sites themselves and we offer some advice on this. As for disinterested clerks receiving our suspicious site reports - these reports are sent through to the IP specialists in each company, who use them to perform regular investigations and take-downs of fake sites (which they do in the thousands annually) - why do they receive them and not Trading Standards departments? TS send these reports on to the very same people anyway, and TS have recently had their budgets so slashed they will increasingly be unable to perform the anti-counterfeiting services they have over the past few years. Are we privately funded? Sure, no hiding this. There is currently no public money available for a service like ours, but also would it be appropriate coming from a public body? Who wants the government telling people how to shop? Buying counterfeits is not illegal, so must be a personal choice. It makes sense to us to ask the brands to contribute towards their own IP protection rather than using Trading Standards funds to do it, and if the result is that consumers have a bit more choice as to where to shop rather than the obvious big stores online, that we think that is worthwhile. Many thanks.
  • Simon
    Such a blatant soon to be affiliate website. I am actually really pissed off that a un-finished website gets coverage on the BBC website - what a complete Joke. Is this what my TV license gets spent on - advertising un-finished websites - which advertise other websites. Actually, I said soon to be affiliate websites, but I actually found one link on the site which had the affiliate code on the end. So they are already getting commission!!!

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