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