|NEWARK – When shopping for a wedding gown, consumers should be aware that what you see online may not even be close to what you get. With the arrival of the fall wedding season, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today reminds consumers to beware of websites that appear to offer genuine designer wedding dresses at low prices – but actually deliver poorly made counterfeits.
Last year, U.S. buyers purchased approximately 600,000 to 700,000 counterfeit dresses from overseas retailers who advertised them online, according industry sources. Online consumer complaints reveal that a significant number of consumers were severely disappointed with dresses that did not match their online photos and descriptions, but instead were made with inferior fabric and sub-par workmanship.
Many consumers reported that their dresses would need expensive alterations – if they were acceptable and usable at all. Many others had to obtain and pay even more for new dresses, often with just days to go before their wedding, prom, or other event.
“Given the amount of time, attention, and money that goes into planning a wedding or other formal event, consumers want their formalwear, including dresses, to be just right,” Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. “Beware of websites that appear to offer quality dresses but actually sell poorly made counterfeits – and leave you spending more for a replacement dress at the last minute.”
As this illustration shows, when shopping online it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a website selling genuine designer dresses, from one that sells counterfeits. Websites offering counterfeit dresses have been known to use photos and other images that are copied directly from those used by brand-name designers.
Advice for Consumers
There are several steps consumers can take when shopping online for a wedding dress or other formalwear:
- If you are seeking an authentic brand-name dress, one way to ensure its authenticity is to buy from a retailer who is authorized by the designer to sell their dresses. If a store, website, or retail company offering the designer’s dress is not listed on the brand name’s website as an authorized dealer, it may be part of a counterfeit operation.
- If you are shopping for a specific dress across multiple websites, pay close attention to the advertised retail price. If one store or website is offering the same brand-name dress at a substantially lower price, it may be selling low-quality counterfeits.
- Be sure to thoroughly read the seller’s return and cancellation policies. You should know these policies even when dealing with a genuine wedding dress retailer.
- Find out whether the online retailer is associated with a brick-and-mortar location. Find the website’s contact information, and make a phone call to determine whether it is a listed, working telephone number.
- Call the seller. Speak with a real person and ask as many questions as necessary to determine whether the business is legitimate. Ask for written confirmation of any guarantees they make. Ask for proof of the quality and brand name of the item you consider purchasing.
- Learn as much as possible about the company’s reputation. Perform an Internet search for positive or negative customer reviews.
- Consider paying by credit card. This means of payment provides a clear record that may enable you to dispute the charges with your credit card provider if you are cheated.
- Many websites offering counterfeit dresses are operated by overseas businesses. Beware that, if you are cheated, it can be extremely difficult to obtain a refund from a company not located in the United States.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs online, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.