Investigations are underway as over four retail shops, in the southern Chinese city of Kunming, were discovered to be posing as fake Apple stores. Customers and even staff were fooled by the Apple products, whether they were real or selling fakes counterfeit versions. The store itself has been impressive in terms of decorating and matching furniture to legitimate Apple stores.
The media coverage has disrupted business at the stores prompting angry response from the fake stores' management. Customers have returned to the stores demanding refunds for their possibly counterfeited purchased items. Inspections from Chinese authorities will determine if the stores are legal to operate and whether the products are genuine or replicas.
The fake Apple store management claimed that it possesses a business license and operates legally by selling legitimate Apple products. They did not claim to be authorized Apple dealers but decorated the stores to appear like genuine Apple stores.
"I am sure we will become their authorized reseller in the near future...After all, we invested a lot in this store...There is no Chinese law that says I can't decorate my shop the way I want to decorate it," said the manager.
Fake Apple store staff also expressed their frustration in the recent events.
"The media is painting us to be a fake store but we don't sell fakes, all our products are real, you can check it yourself," said an unidentified employee.
According to business practices, retailers are allowed to sell Apple products even if they are not considered an Apple store. China has thousands of unauthorized dealers who sell Apple products, but the latest string of fake stores has taken counterfeiting to a new level.
China is famous for the production of counterfeited goods that range from any type of consumer item you can think of. Many of these replicas are cheaper than genuine brand items. But in the fake Apple Store case, Macbooks, iPads, and others are being sold at the same price as the genuine Apple stores in Shanghai.
"This was a total Apple store rip-off. A beautiful rip-off - a brilliant one - the best rip-off store we had ever seen," wrote a blogger.
China now is in the media center due to recent events as counterfeited goods are getting a closer look from both the Chinese and United States government. There has been a long history of crackdown on counterfeited goods as shipments of replicated products continue to soar.
According to the European Commission, over 103 million counterfeit products were detained at the border. That number doubled since 2010 and continues to rise thanks to the internet and online sales. That comes out to over $1.4 billion of the estimated value of the equivalent genuine products.
Countries with illegal business practices selling pirated goods can expect an instant source of revenue as the counterfeiting business is estimated to be valued at $24 billion. The current fake Apple store incident could bring more attention to the rising issue
The sale of pirated goods creates an immediate stream of revenue for the country as the market is valued between $19-24 billion. The Kunming investigations on fake Apple Stores will check the business permits and licenses along with authorized brand use. Inspection will also include tracking the purchase channel for products sold at the store. A public announcement will be presented later in the week after Chinese investigators complete inspection of the fake Apple stores.