All that glitters is not gold, and all that glows is not all Dom Perignon Luminous Millesime.
It just so happens that two cases of Dom Perignon Luminous Millesime Brut 2002 vintage sold on China’s biggest e-commerce platform Tmall.com for RMB 43,000 were in fact counterfeit bubbles.
The fraudster’s bootleg scheme was uncovered when he sold the two cases to an unsuspicious customer, who turned out to be none other than the Champagne house’s parent company Moet Hennessy.
The case was made public after its court verdict was published this year on China Judgements Online, an official court database of rulings powered by the country’s Supreme People’s Court.
The two cases of fake wines were bought by Moet Hennessy for a total of RMB 43,000 (US$6,658) and included luminous labels of green, red, yellow, white, light blue and dark blue.
Dom Perignon, however, only produces two luminous labels from the range, one vintage prestige cuvee with a green label and a rosé with a red label. The cuvees are designed to glow in dim-light environment with a built-in switch hidden in the punt.
Additional inspection by Moet Hennessy team also found inconsistencies in wine label design, font size, vintage discrepancy between label and cork, and shoddy typos on its back labels.
For example, on the back label, the counterfeit bottle spelt “résultat” erroneously as “résulta”. Also a few letters are capitalized incorrectly such as “PLenitude “, “eLboration”, “reveaLed”, whereas the authentic wines spelt all words in lower cases.
STILL IN THE GAME
The fraudster’s shop on Tmall.com was identified as 品味八方酒行 in the court document and operated by a Beijing-based company called Shi Chun International Trading Company (世醇国际贸易（北京）有限公司).
A search by Vino Joy News on Tmall.com still shows the company has over 30,204 followers on the e-commerce platform as of June 30, and is selling a range of premium Champagne including Dom Perignon, its luminous cuvees, Krug and Champagne Armand de Brignac (see below screengrabs).
The company told the court that it got the counterfeited products from another company in Beijing called 北京网鼎兴友商贸有限公司 and presented WeChat communications as proof. The court, however, ruled that the communications on WeChat couldn’t establish if it’s in fact between the said Beijing supplier and the fraudster.
It’s also unknown if a follow-up criminal investigation is launched against the implicated Beijing supplier.
Traditionally, Champagne exports a fraction of its bubbles to China, with less than 2 million bottles sold in the country on average. Last year, its exports to mainland China was down -25.8% to 1.4 million bottles, according to Comité Champagne data.
However, the country is a key market for prestige Champagne. It ranks the fourth largest market in terms of prestige cuvée market share, just behind Hong Kong.
According tot the court document, Moet asked for RMB 500,000 (US$77,409) compensation for its litigation costs and economic damages. The court in the end ordered the fraudster to pay Moet RMB 80,000 for economic damages and RMB 90,563 for litigation costs, about one third of what Moet requested.
The court’s reasoning for the reduced compensation is that the amount of fake Dom Perignon Luminous wines sold from the shop over the past two years is “limited”.
From the data provided by Tmall.com, the fraudster over a period of two years sold RMB 95,440 (US$ 14,777) worth of fake Dom Perignon, “a limited amount” over a stretched period of time, as the court describes.
The court also adds that because the scale of the fraudster’s fake wine operation can not be determined, and there is no evidence to prove the actual loss from Moet Hennessy.
Given the fraudulent product is taken offline, there is no evidence to prove the existence of offline sales of the defendant’s company to other customs, leading the court to discount the final compensation amount.
Moet obtained Dom Perignon trademark in China in 2008, and it’s valid till 2028 pending renewal.