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Statistics can help avoid buying fake goods online
Published on 21 Mar. 2011 12:42 AM IST
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Consumers need to know the pitfalls of buying artwork or luxury goods online, say statisticians.
Currently, online auction site operators are not required to guarantee the authenticity of the items listed. A study shows that statistical methods used in evaluating the accuracy of medical screening tests can be successfully applied to assess the misrepresentation of such items, the statistics journal Significance reports.
For consumer protection agencies, this is a significant step forward in enabling them to monitor the authenticity of objects offered for online sale, according to a George Washington University statement.
The results also indicate that the laws on misrepresentation of items for online sale need to be strengthened to protect the public, says lead author Joseph L. Gastwirth, professor of statistics and economics at George Washington.
The accuracy of the descriptions of artwork by Henry Moore offered on eBay were examined over a period of 18 months. Two expert evaluators classified the artworks independently, with a third evaluator collecting the data and sending it to them separately.
The results showed that over 80 percent of the small sculptures and drawings indicated by eBay sellers as by Henry Moore were in fact not genuine, while over 90 percent of the signed prints were genuine.

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