Health Supplement Maker Summerville Says Online Counterfeits Are Damaging Its Brand | Business

Summerville-based nutritional supplement maker Thorne Healthtech is suing a New York man and his internet storefront for allegedly selling obsolete, damaged and counterfeit products bearing the Thorne name.

In a Dec. 8 lawsuit filed in federal court, Thorne said Andrew Chekayev of Brooklyn was damaging the company’s reputation because the products he sells received negative online reviews from of consumers who think they are buying real supplements from a manufacturer’s representative.

It is unclear where Chekayev gets the products he sells through his BOBR Health online storefront hosted on the retail giant Amazon’s website. Thorne also named several defendants “John Doe” who may have supplied Chekayev with contaminated products or helped him sell them online.

This is the second time that Thorne has taken on an unauthorized supplement seller using the Amazon platform. In May, the company sued Ukrainian resident Yuliia Balandiuk over similar allegations involving its Amazon storefront. Thorne obtained a default judgment against Balandiuk which prohibits him from selling any Thorne product, whether real or counterfeit, or from using the company’s trademark. She was also ordered to pay almost $ 28,000 in damages.

Tom McKenna, COO of Thorne, told The Post and Courier that the company takes a tough stance on dishonest sellers because in the healthcare industry “you just can’t have that.”

He said the lawsuits “have certainly made Amazon’s eyes and ears look more into this stuff.”

In the most recent case, Thorne said customers buying supplements in Chekayev left reviews online complaining of falsified packaging, expired products, moldy pills, capsules that melted into a “giant drop.” and bogus vitamins.

“These issues would not have arisen for products purchased directly from Thorne or an authorized reseller as a result of Thorne’s quality checks,” the company said in its lawsuit, adding that the bad reviews “were damaging to the Thorne brand “. He said unauthorized products could also pose a risk to the health and safety of consumers.

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Thorne said he sent several cease and desist letters to Chekayev and his company between 2019 and 2021, but all were ignored. Thorne estimates that Chekayev sold over 34,000 bottles of the supplements and earned nearly $ 1.6 million from unauthorized sales.

Thorne accuses Chekayev of trademark infringement and of unfair and deceptive business practices. He asks a judge to ban Chekayev from selling supplements or Thorne products bearing the company’s name and paying unspecified damages.

Chekayev did not file a response to Thorne’s allegations and could not be reached for comment.

Amazon has admitted issues with its third-party marketplace, especially as online sales have exploded during the pandemic.

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The Seattle-based company, which accounts for about a third of all online sales, said earlier this year that it blocked more than 10 billion suspected bogus ads in 2020 before any of their offers could be sold. . The number of ads blocked last year increased by around 67% from 2019. Amazon said it spent more than $ 700 million last year on its anti-counterfeiting efforts and that a team 10,000 people work there.

Some members of Congress are also keen to require e-commerce retailers to do a better job of tracking potential counterfeit sellers. The bipartisan INFORM Consumers Act would require online marketplaces to provide more transparent data about the identity of their third-party sellers.

“When you go to so many of these websites, these markets, you don’t know who you’re buying from,” Michael Hanson of the Buy Safe America Coalition of Retailers and Consumer Groups told the Newsy website. “And there’s really no regulation on it. So what the bill would do is say, ‘Hey, the markets, Amazon, Facebook. If you have a high volume salesperson make sure you know who they are. Let’s check these sellers and make sure consumers have a chance to see who they’re buying from.

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Contact David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

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