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Wine Spectator: How Serious Is China About Fighting Fake Wine Sales Online?

February 26, 2015

Is the Chinese government serious about cracking down on online sales of counterfeit wines? Last month, an agency lashed out at Alibaba, the giant e-commerce site, for failing to curb the activities of unlicensed merchants and the sale of fake goods, including wine, on its sites. But the report was quickly retracted, leaving wineries and importers wondering if it was a warning shot or something else.

“The e-commerce market in China is rife with sellers who present wonderful-looking products, which turn out to be of a very different quality once they arrive at a customer’s door,” John Watkins, CEO of major importer ASC Fine Wines, told Wine Spectator.

Alibaba, which owns e-commerce platforms Tmall and Taobao, a site similar to eBay, raised $25 billion in its IPO last September, making its founder, Jack Ma, the richest man in China. But Alibaba and Taobao made the United States Trade Representative’s “Notorious Markets List” each year from 2008 to 2011. And a search of vendors on the sites will turn up wines with questionable labels and appellations.

Officials from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) first raised the issue of counterfeits with Alibaba executives at a meeting held July 17, 2014, in Hangzhou, prior to the IPO. The officials wanted to discuss a SAIC white paper detailing “the long-term existence of illegal problems regarding the management of transaction activity and other issues,” according to a translation of the report’s text. The company began an effort to crack down on counterfeiters using its platforms before the IPO, according to wine merchants. Wine Spectator has the full story.

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