Boat Race Rip Off

Article first published 3 November 2011 1 May 2012

eBay merchant rakes in cash by ripping off our boat club – TCS Exclusive reveals all

The Cambridge Student has uncovered a lucrative trade in counterfeit Cambridge University Boat Club stash.

Hackett have been the official clothing sponsors of the Boat Race for six years. As well as kitting out our boys in their trademark Cambridge blue wellies and fleeces, they also sell a range of Boat Race-branded clothing in their shops. A CUBC-branded rugby shirt costs £80 on the official Hackett website, but an eBay seller has been selling fake versions of their luxury shirts at prices as cheap as £14.99.

At present, the seller, wc1-direct, has 78 items for sale, all being passed off as genuine Hackett products. If his entire stock sold for the auction prices at the time of going to print, it would cost £1539.29, not including postage and packaging. TCS believes that we have identified the seller, and traced him to a residential address in Norfolk.

Hackett told TCS that their clothes have been faked before. Their spokesperson said: “The world of counterfeits is an occupational hazard if you become a successful clothing brand and we are no exception. We do take this problem very seriously with regular counterfeiters being taken to court, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult with the internet playing a major role in helping the felons.”

Ebay said: “We take copyright infringement seriously and work with brands and rights owners to take action where there are reports of suspicious items.”

It would seem that the fake seller is attempting to trade off Hackett’s prestige as a luxury brand and CUBC’s record for sporting excellence. A spokesperson for the Boat Club said: “Obviously the race is expensive to run and relies on sponsors. It’s a shame that some people might buy these inferior products believing them to be the real deal.”

Although at first glance the seller might seem reputable, a closer look reveals that some customers have realised that they were being duped. One eBay user commented, “Not convinced on the authenticity of the item. Impolite!” Another left feedback saying that the seller was a “liar”, “unfriendly” and “very aggressive”.

The counterfeit clothes are clearly poor quality, but one of the most glaring errors – surrounding the CUBC lion with an incongruous Oxford belt – was in fact a deliberate, if baffling, choice on the part of the Hackett designers.

In justification, the company said: “While we understand that the Oxford crest sits within a belt, so do a lot of other institution’s crests and we felt it was not too exclusive to Oxford to prevent us from this design. On the contrary to your understanding, the shirt did prove very popular, but we have withdrawn it along with many others to keep the designs fresh.”

Counterfeit clothing is big business: the Rogers Review estimated that UK criminals made £1.3 billion from intellectual property crime, which includes counterfeiting, in 2006 alone. People who sell counterfeit goods can face fines of up to £5,000 and imprisonment.

TCS has informed Hackett, eBay and the Trading Standards Authority about the fraud.

Zoah Hedges-Stocks – Co-Editor

Article first published 3 November 2011