Some Etsy sellers are “ripping off” customers by charging up to seven times more than other websites for items falsely presented as “handmade”, according to Which?
The watchdog said it was concerned that the marketplace “for unique and creative goods” with a “human touch” was misleading shoppers into paying a premium for products advertised as handmade but available at significantly cheaper prices with popular retailers such as Amazon, Asda and B&M.
Which? analysed the first page of items in a selection of categories on Etsy in March, including furniture, toys and clothes. Researchers then filtered results to show “handmade” items only and used a Google image search to see if they were for sale elsewhere.
It found that 23 handmade items out of the 192 looked at were also available on other online platforms or retailers, and all but two had a higher price on Etsy.
Nine items cost more than twice as much on Etsy than the cheapest price elsewhere.
A free-standing “handmade” bookshelf was £59.99 on Etsy, six times the price of an identical item available for £10 on Alibaba, while on Amazon the same product was £28.88 and on eBay it was £28.90.
One “star seller” on Etsy, awarded the tag for criteria including responding to messages quickly, making at least five sales worth 300 dollars, a star rating of 4.8 or higher on average and dispatching orders on time, sold a “handmade” rustic bedside night stand table for £128.31 on the site – nearly three times the price of the same item on Amazon where it was found for £43.99.
Which? found an industrial coffee table from the same seller available on Etsy for £146.10 but much cheaper on Wowcher (£59.99), Manomano (£84.99), Wayfair (£89.99), Aosom (£99.99) and eBay (£131.99).
Another Etsy “star seller” had a “handmade” shabby chic chest of drawers for £175, plus £25 for delivery. The cheapest price Which? found elsewhere was on B&Q marketplace at £72.99 with free delivery – a £102 difference on the price of the item, or £127 if delivery costs were included.
Which? checked the details for the seller and found that the profile picture on the account was a stock image of a woman wearing a suit.
During the investigation, the same account had 105 products for sale. Which? checked seven of those as part of its investigation and found that all were available on other platforms and all were more expensive through Etsy.
Which? checked a handful of “busy books” in the site’s toy category, finding that one “handmade” title was also on Alibaba where it could be bought for £4 compared to £27.98 on Etsy – seven times the price.
Which? found some Etsy sellers of women’s clothes claiming that items were handmade when they were also on Amazon and eBay from apparently unrelated sellers. One of these sellers had made nearly 9,000 sales.
One Etsy seller had 19 “handmade” items on sale, but six were actually from Asda, one was from Dunelm and one was from B&M, Which? found, while all the other items were on at least one other online marketplace.
One Asda side table was being sold as handmade on Etsy for £42.99, while on Asda it was £22 – meaning it was being sold on for nearly double the price.
A bee print shower curtain that was £7 at Asda was three and a half times the price on Etsy at £23.99.
Etsy states that everything listed for sale on Etsy must be handmade, vintage or a craft supply.
To be listed as a handmade item, sellers must have been involved in the making or design of the item and must be open about anyone else involved in the process.
Sellers can sell mass-produced items as handmade as long as they have had a role in the design process and they declare this on the listing page.
Only two Etsy sellers in Which?’s sample mentioned that any other company had helped in the production process, but researchers could not find any evidence that the named companies existed.
Etsy has removed some of the sellers from its platform since Which? notified it of its findings.
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Our research shows some Etsy sellers are brazenly ripping off customers by making misleading claims about their products.
“Etsy needs to up its game in tackling these dishonest practices, which serve as an example of why a crackdown on dodgy claims and advertising online is long overdue.
“The Government must put a statutory regulator in place to ensure platforms have sufficient processes to prevent misleading advertising. This should include the ability to issue fines against platforms that flout the rules.”
An Etsy spokeswoman said: “Etsy is proud to be home to millions of unique, handcrafted, and customised goods, and protecting the integrity of our marketplace is critical to our business.
“Our policies prohibit counterfeit and resold merchandise on Etsy, and we use a combination of automatic controls, manual review, and user flags to continuously monitor the marketplace and identify policy violations. Etsy users are also encouraged to report potentially violating listings via our site-wide flagging tool.
“Since 2018, we’ve quadrupled our investments in the trust and safety of our marketplace and, in 2022 alone, we put 50 million dollars towards these efforts.
“Specifically, we are intensifying enforcement of our Handmade Policy, and we have expanded our team of content moderators and strengthened our automated detection systems to steadily increase our removal of resold content.”