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Be Careful When Buying Apple Accessories on Amazon

Amazon may be the most popular online retailer in the United States, known for its low prices, fast shipping, and excellent customer service. But the company has a serious issue with counterfeiting.

In July 2016, CNBC reported on rampant counterfeiting of name brands by third-party Chinese sellers. The problem caused sandal maker Birkenstock to walk away from Amazon entirely.

Then, in August, Amazon tried to put a stop to counterfeit goods by making third-party merchants pay a $1500 fee to sell major-brand products. However, that requirement apparently hasn’t helped much, since Apple is now taking legal action against Amazon supplier Mobile Star, claiming that nearly 90 percent of Apple-branded accessories sold on Amazon are fake.

This lawsuit isn’t just a matter of Apple being offended. Using these cheaply made knockoff accessories can result in all sorts of problems: poor performance, electric shocks, and even fires and explosions.

Unfortunately, it can be tough to identify counterfeit products. Price isn’t necessarily an indicator, since the knockoffs are often priced the same as legitimate Apple products to aid in the deception.

While Amazon has been complicit in allowing counterfeit products to be sold, Amazon itself hasn’t been selling fakes. Rather, it’s third-party merchants selling via Amazon who are foisting the phony products off on customers. For that reason, some people have recommended steering clear of the “Fulfillment by Amazon” program that merchants can employ to have their products stored in and shipped from Amazon’s warehouses. That’s easier said than done, since so much of Amazon’s inventory comes from those third-party sellers. Personally, I haven’t had any problems with such products. I prefer Anker’s PowerLine+ Lightning cables to Apple’s, and Anker sells them directly via Amazon.

Another tip-off can come from reviews. TidBITS publisher Adam Engst was recently looking to buy an Apple Thunderbolt cable that looked entirely legit, but when he scrolled down to the reviews, a number of reviewers warned that they had received a counterfeit product. Reviews can be bought, so be sure to read a few of them, of various star ratings, before making a purchase.

The only sure way to get authentic Apple products is to buy them directly from Apple, as Adam ended up doing with the Thunderbolt cable, or from an authorized Apple reseller.

We hope that Apple’s lawsuit encourages Amazon to strengthen its anti-counterfeiting program. It’s bad enough to pay full price for knockoff sandals, but knockoff electronics can damage expensive equipment and cause injuries.


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Comments about Be Careful When Buying Apple Accessories on Amazon
(Comments are closed.)

David Gustavson  2016-10-24 13:31
Thanks. But please Google: "pawning off" vs "Palming off"
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-24 14:29
I have, and while there are plenty of people who want to say that "palm off" is correct and "pawn off" isn't, the first usage of the latter dates to 1832 and has sufficient usage that most of the dictionaries I saw had no problem with it.

That said, on reflection, I think "foist" is the best word to use and will change it to that.
Maurice  2016-10-24 17:07
The link under 'Apple is now taking legal action against Amazon supplier Mobile Star' should probably be this one:
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-24 17:19
Fixed, thanks!
Dennis B. Swaney  2016-10-24 22:30
Josh, the Anker cables are charging only, correct? I was hoping to get some of the 1 foot ones to replace longer power and sync cables cluttering up my desk.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-25 11:38
They should work just fine for syncing. They're standard, Apple-approved, Lightning cables.
It seems to be the same problem in the UK. Just yesterday I was looking for an iPad charger on Amazon. There were enough bad comments to convince me to buy from Apple UK instead.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2016-10-25 10:06
There are a lot of components not supplied by Apple, like hubs and hard drives. The best we can do, I think, is buy known brand name products with an established reputation, or to get items from reputable Apple focused sources like Otherworld Computing ( There used to be more of those, but Apple retail stores and Amazon buried most of them.

One type of product I learned to avoid the hard way, is Amazon Essentials. I got a truly inferior USB 3 hub that way. Amazon Essentials means the cheapest of the cheap. Caveat Emptor.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-25 11:39
I've had decent luck with Amazon Essentials, but mostly cables and things like that. Anker is the only brand of USB hub I recommend, and even they're not perfect.
Hank Roberts  2016-10-25 18:20
'oogle: Amazon commingled inventory WSJ for the horror behind their warehouse system, which trusts labels so doesn't assure you get the product actually provided by the seller you chose -- you get the item with that name on the label, because they're all in one big bin.