What are my rights after being sold counterfeit items by a Craigslist seller?
February 17, 2009 12:11 AM   Subscribe

I bought some items from a seller on Craigslist and they turned out to be counterfeit. What are my rights?

The details:

- The items were two Shure SM58 microphones. I own four authentic SM58s prior to this purchase.

- I posted a "WTB" (want to buy) ad in the "musical instruments" forum on Portland's Craigslist.

- The seller responded by e-mail (which I still have, branded with the traditional "Craigslist advisory" header). He wrote, "I have 2 NIB (unopened) Shure SM58 Microphones. Call me if you're still interested."

- The microphones were purchased in person at the seller's home for $55 each, $110 total.

- Got them home, opened the box and noticed something was wrong. These were not identical to the other SM58s I own. They were lighter, cheaper plastic and the logo printing was an off-color.

- Did some internet research and turned up these URLs:

- Realizing they were fake, and thus worthless to me, I called the seller to let him know. I figured I'd give him the benefit of the doubt, that he didn't know. There was a language barrier involved, but essentially he gave me the run around and refused to refund my money, or to adequately compensate me for the difference in value.

So that's the long story. It seems to me that he was aware of what he was selling, or at the very least is unmoved by having it brought to his attention.

I am ignorant of the laws that apply to individuals selling counterfeit items in the US. Do I have a basis to take him to small claims court?
posted by jacksaturn to Law & Government (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe the threat of small claims court (or even just vague legal action) will be enough to make an honest man out of him. My guess is that small claims court would be a horrible terrible process for you, but perhaps for him too, and I bet he knows it.
posted by brenton at 12:54 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

1) Exhaust your non-legal remedies (sounds like you've done this, but a strongly worded letter never hurts)
2) File a criminal complaint with the local cops, and perhaps with the state of oregon's consumer fraud division. (You will probably not get any money by doing this process but there's a small chance he'll face a penalty this way.)
3) Sue him in small claims court. Filing fee + service fee will cost you around $85, which may make it not worth your while. And even if you win a default judgment you'll still have to collect it.

In my (limited, non-legal) capacity as a mediator for small claims court, people seem unconcerned with what the state of the law is. I would worry more about whether it makes sense for you to go through the hassle of small claims than whether you have a shot of winning your case.

Blah blah blah, this is not legal advice, IANYL.
posted by Happydaz at 1:01 AM on February 17, 2009

I went through this years ago on ebay. Paid for it with PayPal, and the person cleared out their bank account before they could get much money back. They used false info so I couldn't really track them down physically. Ebay & PayPal weren't helpful, they told me I had to file a police report. I did. The police did little. PayPal and Ebay did little. I had to just accept the fact I was out $600 and move on.

YMMV. That was a few years ago and supposedly there are more ways to fight these online scams than there used to be. If you can get more information about the person, you'll have more of a chance to be able to sue them or have the police actually take some action. You might have to join me and walk towards the white light though...
posted by miss lynnster at 1:15 AM on February 17, 2009

BTW, mine wasn't a microphone. I ordered some software and they sent me blank counterfeit disks.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:16 AM on February 17, 2009

You can take him to small claims, as he promised one thing and delivered another. You'll want to bring the items, emails, and some sort of supporting evidence (an appraisal from a music store?). But you may spend more than $110 of your time in an attempt to collect.

You can also file a police report, but the police will not take action on it. This is a non-violent incident and the money involved is tiny (relative to the crimes they do care about, like auto theft).

You might try posting to the Craigslist forums asking if anyone else has run into this seller and has similar stories. If enough of you get together, the police are more likely to care.
posted by zippy at 2:39 AM on February 17, 2009

A little advice for the future- Posts under the "wanted" section of Craigslist attract the most scammers, post "WTB" under the music section next time or whatever section you need. Not saying you still won't get scammers but the "wanted" section is where a lot of the scammers start.
posted by BrnP84 at 3:09 AM on February 17, 2009

Counterfeits again? Ok I've got a small side biz here in London selling iPod Shuffle look a likes.

We clearly market them as alternatives to Apple's own product, but we can sell a Shuffle look a like with twice the storage for well under half the price of the real thing, and still get almost a 200% markup. Nice biz.

So there isn't really a good reason for this guy to NOT take your microphones back and then resell as necessary. He's clearly got the margin. So bad faith on his part, as we do this all the time even when we're most definitely in the right.

Our biggest problem on the supply side is fake iPods; I've spent about four years finding suppliers in China that wouldn't send us product marked in any way / shape / form with the word Apple. Even so, every now and then we get a shipment that I simply can not and will not sell - knock offs, not look a likes.

So there clearly is the chance (small in my view as I know a lot of sleazy sorts do intentionally purchase and sell on counterfeit good) that he received bogus product but even so he should take it back. I'm not sure what satisfaction you'll get by small claims court or the police, but I do know that some folks selling knock offs here in the UK have gotten MAJOR grief from Apple themselves. Major as in a big corp is gonna sue your small company into oblivion. And there is always the very good chance he's like many trading on CL or even eBay - no business entity, nothing to distinguish personal activities and assets from business. In other words, hello bankruptcy if civil actions taken by a well capitalised entity were to be initiated.

Myself, I'd chalk it up to experience - after all, you didn't open the boxes at the point of purchase and it seems you bought product at about 50% discount to market.

So spend your time engaging Shure to make certain they know their brand is being diluted and abused by counterfeits. Its best to let them go after this guy rather than doing it yourself. I've seen Apple totally wipe out conterfeit vendors here in the UK (good on them).
posted by Mutant at 3:24 AM on February 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Mutant is right- call Shure and tell them. Others are right- file a complaint with the cops and move on. Small claims is an option, but I doubt it will do any good. Even if you got a judgement in your favor, how would you collect?
posted by gjc at 6:17 AM on February 17, 2009

OP: I posted a "WTB" (want to buy) ad in the "musical instruments" forum on Portland's Craigslist.

Guess you're right, you still do get scammers in there.
posted by azarbayejani at 7:07 AM on February 17, 2009

I'd talk to Shure, and maybe send a strongly worded letter to the guy, but small claims court seems to be bad math when you figure for the time and money involved.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:22 AM on February 17, 2009

There isn't much protection when dealing person to person on craigslist. Online, you can always charge to your credit card, in person not so much.

Future advice: open and inspect the item before you hand over the $. Even better, if you have some equipment in your car you can try them out with.
posted by tachikoma_robot at 11:15 AM on February 17, 2009

« Older Is this part of having strep, or something else?   |   Culture of Pregnancy in Thailand? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.