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Beware of CBD Scams on Amazon and eBay

Beware of CBD Scams on Amazon and eBay

Amazon and eBay both explicitly prohibit the sale of CBD because they are governed by American Federal Law. Why is it then, that we can find so many CBD products listed on their platforms? We've found that the majority of these are scams via third-party sellers and that customers who are not naive are figuring this out quickly and speaking up.

Amazon and eBay: the ideal environment for a CBD scam

In the UK, buying CBD has never been easier. Every day there are new products, new brands and more choice. It also appears to be a great time to start selling it too. The news is full of stories of hemp businesses being started by celebrities, sports stars, budding entrepreneurs, working parents and even teenagers. 

While this has been mostly successful in supporting customers to find high-quality, it has also driven the scammers to a new home; forum selling sites like Amazon and eBay.

By implementing strict 'no CBD' policies, both Amazon and eBay have unwittingly created the perfect environment for them to thrive. While working in different ways, both Amazon and eBay allow third-party sellers to list their items on their sites. To do this, the seller must comply with the rules or risk having their listings removed. 

Any product labelled as one of the items listed or claiming to contain CBD, is promptly removed. The same is true of eBay. 

While the legislation referred to in their guidelines doesn't represent the government's most recent stance, eBay appears to remain unclear as to the current status of CBD. Any products labelled as 'CBD' are removed citing legal issues. 

Unexpectedly this resulted in crooked sellers filling both sites with hemp oil products made to look like they contain CBD. These fakes can be very convincing to those who haven't tried the genuine item. They are often priced at a similar level to CBD and have amounts in mg on the label but often just contain hemp oil.

Hemp oil, while a great source of fatty acids and some minerals is not as sought after, nor as expensive as CBD (ScienceDirect). Many health food shops stock 500ml bottles of hemp oil or hemp seed oil for less than £10.

How CBD scams work on eBay and Amazon

On both sites, if you search for 'CBD oil', you will see hundreds of products referring to themselves as 'hemp extract oil' or 'hemp oil extract'. Some are priced between £25 and £45, which is precisely the kind of price you would expect for a good quality CBD oil, except they aren't. They are in small bottles of between 10ml and 30ml with a dropper but don't contain any CBD and most probably don't have anything more than traces of cannabinoids if at all. 

Others also look like CBD but are priced between £4 and £8, giving the impression that you are getting a bargain. In fact, they are just overpriced hemp oil. While they aren't as much of a rip-off as the others, they still make sales by misleading their customers. Hemp oil is more appropriately sold in larger bottles and used in food, a glug or two at a time (Johnson, 2019). 

Both approaches rely on using packaging that looks like those used for CBD oil. The labels use phrases like 'full-spectrum', 'high-strength' and 'CO2 extracted' alongside an amount in milligrams. Most often it is 500mg, 1000mg or 3000mg. This looks as if it is the amount of CBD but is either the amount of hemp oil added to other ingredients or nothing at all. 

This unsavoury marketing ploy aims to make you believe that you are getting a £30 bottle of CBD oil. What you actually get is worth closer to £1.

Found on Amazon Today:

When searching for 'CBD Oil' on Amazon today, this is what I found on the first page of results: 

  • 48 products in total.
  • 39 displayed an amount in mg that didn't relate to anything. These products were between 10 and 30ml bottles and appeared to be imitating the appearance of a CBD oil. None of these listed CBD anywhere and were labelled 'hemp extract', 'hemp oil' or 'hemp oil extract'. Of these, 5 cost more than £30, 14 were between £20 and £30 and a further 15 were between £10 and £20.
  • Only one of the 48 total products included any mention of CBD. This was a face serum that claimed to contain full-spectrum CBD but didn't list any hemp or CBD in the ingredients.
  • 20 products mentioned a specific medical condition in the item title visible on the search page. While they didn't make any claims of a cure, they implied that the oil was 'for' that condition. For example, 'for anxiety', 'for chronic pain'.
  • Of the 11 products that didn't appear to be imitating CBD oil 6 were correctly labelled hemp seed oil capsules. These did have a mg amount, but it was clear that this referred to the amount of oil contained in each capsule.

Found on eBay Today:

I used the same search term on eBay. The first results page displayed 46 products, of those, 8 were from UK sellers, 4 were international and 34 were found using similar search terms:

  • 42 displayed an amount in mg that didn't relate to anything. As with Amazon, most products were bottles holding between 10 and 30ml of oil. They looked like CBD oil and were called 'hemp extract', 'hemp oil' or 'hemp oil extract'. A few were labelled as 'CBD'. One referred to itself as 'full-spectrum hemp extract'. 
  • Of the 42, 1 cost over £350 (this was a 3000mg paste), 7 were priced at more than £30, 3 were between £20 and £30 and 4 cost between £10 and £20.
  • The 3000mg paste appeared to be a genuine product from a known brand but at a much higher price than available elsewhere. On eBay, it was listed at £363, and on the brand's own site it was £263.
  • 5 items mentioned CBD; most were topical creams or lotions. Oddly, these were mainly products that didn't display any mg amount or percentage to show how much CBD. 5 mentioned CBD or showed it on its label. 
  • 7 products mentioned a specific medical condition in the item title visible on the search page. Most just included a list of medical conditions with no further explanation; others included phrases like 'for pain anxiety heart'.
  • Of the 5 products that didn't appear to be CBD oil or imitating CBD oil, 1 was a pen vaporiser, 1 was the CBD paste and 3 three were hemp topicals. 

You're more likely to find a genuine CBD product on eBay, but the item descriptions can be misleading. They often include lists of unproven medical claims or have massively increased prices (Cotton, 2019).

What you don't get on Amazon and eBay

Many of the CBD products found on these sites are misleading, but in amongst the scams, there may be some genuine items. Both Amazon and eBay are an incredible way to get products in front of new customers, so some sellers are willing to take the risk. 

Not only is it difficult to distinguish genuine items from the fakes, but there is also a lot of valuable information not present in the listings on both sites:

1. A real organic certification

Any mention of organic products should be backed up by an officially recognised authority. Just saying 'certified organic' isn't enough. Any accreditation is only worth anything if it can be verified on the authority's official site. This is because 'organic' is a term that can only be awarded to products that have been fully inspected and met rigorous standards. 

2. A third-party certificate of analysis

These are certificates produced by independent labs following analysis of each product batch. They include useful reports on the substances contained in products, including the cannabinoid profile and the level of any contaminants. These should be available with any CBD purchase to provide proof of the contents and its safety.

3. Consumer rights

Because CBD products breach site guidelines, it is harder to invoke your customer rights. Any negative response or complaint may result in the product being removed from the site or the seller disappearing from the site. Genuine retailers often have customer service teams devoted to responding to concerns and resolving issues.

4. Trusted brands by trusted sellers

Because the sale of any CBD products is banned on Amazon and eBay, authorised retailers don't use these platforms and trusted brands are hard to find.

A trustworthy seller should be happy to talk to their customers about their products, be easily accessible and have a range of product reviews. While several of the products I saw had positive reviews, there was very little response from the seller to either positive or negative comments.

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