The “3M masks” may have looked real but they didn’t fool PDD’s advanced image analysis, which picked out the inkjet printing of the logo and serial number and immediately flagged them as fakes. The real product employed laser printing.
Counterfeiters also tried to trick buyers by using fictitious names that were similar to Japanese mask maker PITTA. But semantics analysis employed by PDD recognized these parasite brands and removed them from the platform.
Such advanced technology was used to customize screening rules for 61 well-known makers of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, disinfectants, alcohol-based formulations, protective glasses and disposable coveralls, to weed out pretenders. Home testing kits, such as point-of-care antibody test kits, were also subjected to strict checks.
PDD also deployed more people to manually check and curtail counterfeits of protective equipment getting listed on its platform. A further layer of protection adopted by PDD to track suspicious sellers was the usage of ratings given by buyers of PPE. The company demanded proof of authorization and product sources from low-rated sellers, and banned those involved in wrongdoing, while providing support to those sellers that received high ratings by buyers.
This multifaceted approach was crucial in ensuring the integrity of supplies on PDD, as demand for surgical masks and disinfectants surged during the coronavirus outbreak in China in the first quarter. With criminals and unscrupulous merchants circling and hoping to profit from a public health crisis, PDD made it a top priority to identify, block and remove counterfeits and substandard equipment.
Spurious sellers also became cautious once they noticed PDD was monitoring costs of essential supplies so merchants couldn’t swindle consumers by increasing prices during a period when buyers would be the most vulnerable. More than 75,000 products showed up as overpriced and those merchants were blacklisted.
PDD also worked with manufacturers, brands and logistics companies to maintain a daily supply of 10 million masks on the platform at the peak of the Covid-19 period. This was achieved despite most of China being shut down and the workforce away due to the Chinese New Year holiday and subsequent stop-work and stay-at-home orders.
The company also put a temporary ban on the number of items a user could purchase per day as panic buying led to people hoarding masks, gloves and other medical supplies.
In all, PDD successfully blocked more than 30,000 fake product applications during the period starting with the Chinese New Year through the end of February. The company also removed 500,000 products, shut down 40 stores and reprimanded 6,000 suspicious merchants.
PDD, which enforces a zero-tolerance policy for suspicious products and sellers, also alerted law enforcement agencies to about 75 merchants that were found selling masks and other protective equipment illegally.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, PDD has reported 18 criminal cases to authorities, leading to the arrest of three former company employees. Investigations are also on against current employees who allegedly colluded with merchants to sell counterfeit medical supplies and also increase prices of essential goods on the platform.