Tencent’s Paipai.com is a Veritable Pirate’s Bay – But Users Love It


There seems to be a rampant piracy and counterfeiting problem on Tencent’s e-commerce platform, Paipai.com. But judging by user reviews, everyone’s happy.

Although Tencent is one of China’s most established web companies, it still hasn’t come to grips with counterfeit designer brands or shanzhai gadgets on its relatively new online shopping portal.

On Paipai today you can buy anything from counterfeit Calvin Klein underwear right up to a detailed iPhone 4 knock-off. Users on the site, however, seem mostly aware of what’s going on, and are happy with the goods that they’re buying. One C2C vendor who sells a cheap iPhone knock-off (which is at least convincing at the hardware level) has a 99.93 percent user satisfaction rating, based on hundreds of purchases by happy customers.

Here are three risky counterfeit items you could grab right now on Paipai:

1. Big Apple iPhone 4

It's a fake iPhone. It runs Android 2.2. And there's an inexplicable Windows logo on there too. (Image source: a C2C vendor on Paipai.com)

Externally it looks like an iPhone 4 – provided you don’t get too close – but once you go hands-on with the software, you’ll see it’s running Android 2.2 with a bizarre JAVA ROM that makes part of the interface look vaguely like iOS. Goodness knows what the build quality is like, or if its processor will actually be able to handle any Android games that you might try to throw at it.

Customers seem happy, and the word “shanzhai” in the title alerts everyone to this not being a magical device that has been blessed by Steve Jobs himself. One vendor I spotted has over 260 recent buyers, and a sky-high rating from his punters. If you like living dangerously and have gullible, short-sighted friends, this Big Apple phone is selling for 1,300 RMB (US$200). Check it out here.

2. Louis Vuitton handbag

If 800 RMB ($125) looks too good to be true for an iconic Louis Vuitton handbag, that’s because it’s is. Counterfeit bags have improved a lot from their early days as 30-dollar plasticky knock-offs, and now a patina of artisanship goes into some of the higher-end IP-infringing handbags. Check out the bag here.

3. Omega watch

Well, this could spell trouble. Just last month, Paipai’s bigger rival, Taobao, got sued by three luxury watch-makers for selling fake versions of its pricey watches on Taobao’s C2C platform. And here we have Paipai making the same mistake. This 368 RMB Omega is handmade by Guangdong’s finest minimum-wage craftsmen and women, and carries the aroma of the sweat, tears, and lost dreams that went into its making. Check it out here.

Those three buys are risky not only for consumers – how, precisely, would you track down the maker of the shanzhai iPhone if its battery exploded and blew your hand off? – but also for Tencent. The company – better known in China for its social media and instant messenger services – is risking the ire of some well-exercised legal teams.

Taobao is closer to coming to an end to some mass copyright-infringement issues, and has bolstered its B2C TMall in recent months so as to avoid this tinderbox, and instead is pushing high-street style brand-to-consumer purchasing.

For the moment, however, most consumers on Paipai.com are fine with the arrangement. Most seem to know what’s real or not, and can spot the warning signs with some ease. Paipai, for its part, does have a lot of genuine goods on there, including a number of brand-powered stores – such as Adidas’ well-stocked offering – that sells nothing but genuine items.

What’s your take on this? Hit the comments to tell us how you feel about Tencent, counterfeit goods, and how consumers respond to them.

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