Big data helps Alibaba unmask fake cosmetics seller

Big data from e-commerce giant Alibaba has helped Chinese authorities seize more than RMB20 million (US$2.9 million) worth of fake cosmetics with big-brand labels.

Nanjing police raided a warehouse, seizing 4000 counterfeit products and arresting four people on suspicion of illegal activity. Six others suspected of being involved are also being sought.

Alibaba first alerted authorities to possible counterfeiting of high-end skincare products by one online store in October. The company’s platform governance team subsequently used big data to unveil a web that knocked off CK, Jo Malone, La Mer, SK-II and other premium cosmetic brands across the Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.

In the Nanjing raid, police found creams and serums being made and packaged in unhygienic conditions. Some products were complete fakes, from contents to packaging; others were put into original, recycled packaging and passed off as authentic.

The action was the culmination of the latest co-operation between Alibaba and authorities to weed out not just sellers of fake products, but also to use big data to trace production back to its source. “Operation Cloud Sword” last year bagged 332 suspects running 417 suspected counterfeiting production units, and seized fake goods worth RMB1.43 billion.

This year, the Alibaba Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance was launched with 20 brands, including Louis Vuitton and Mars, to use industry and technology to bring down the makers and sellers of fakes on Alibaba’s platforms.

The group has called for tougher laws and penalties on perpetrators, and Alibaba has also sued people suspected of making and selling counterfeits, saying it hopes high civil penalties will act as a deterrent to those who choose to knock off brands and products.

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