Virtual communities as guardians against product counterfeiting in the athletic footwear industry

Adams, G. T. (2016). Virtual communities as guardians against product counterfeiting in the athletic footwear industry.

This Backgrounder is based on the author’s master’s thesis–Empowering consumers as capable guardians to prevent online product counterfeiting victimization in the athletic footwear industry: a routine activity perspective–written for the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice (https://d.lib.msu.edu/etd/3868).

From the thesis abstract: E-commerce has given consumers an advantageous medium to shop for brand name consumer products. Criminals have too realized these advantages, and use the criminogenic environment of the Internet to defraud consumers using centuries old schemes – such as product counterfeiting (Newman and Clarke, 2003; OECD, 2008). Research on the role of the consumer in self-protection and guardianship to prevent online product counterfeiting victimization is limited. This exploratory qualitative study applied the guardianship element of Routine Activity Theory (Cohen and Felson, 1979) to explore how members of independent virtual brand communities (IVBC) share brand, product, and seller specific knowledge and experiences to learn and educate others on how to differentiate between counterfeit and genuine sellers and products online (before and after making a purchase) – helping the consumer be well-informed when evaluating a product and making a purchasing decision. An IVBC for a leading athletic footwear brand was selected as the data source for a content analysis. Using the three-stage coding process of grounded theory analysis (Corbin and Strauss, 1990), 100 threads were coded and analyzed to assess the key indicators that were most frequently used to distinguish counterfeit and genuine products and sellers, as well as the guardianship potential of the IVBC and its members to serve as a protective factor against this form of victimization online. Findings, limitations, and implications are discussed in depth.

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