Will Amazon’s New Counterfeit Tool Convince More Shoe Brands to Sell on the Site?

Buyer beware?

E-commerce behemoth Amazon, continually plagued with the issue of counterfeit goods, is getting serious about cracking down on fakes. The company yesterday announced the launch of Project Zero, a program empowering brands to help drive down counterfeit sales on the platform to zero.

Some footwear brands, most notably Birkenstock, have been vocal about its issues with Amazon when it comes to counterfeit goods, with Birkenstock refusing to do business with the e-tailer. However, the new move could open the door to brands that currently don’t do business with Amazon due to the sale of knockoffs.

Still, David Kahan, CEO of Birkenstock Americas, is not convinced the initiative is proactive enough. “While it’s admirable Amazon seems to be somewhat grasping the counterfeit situation, most of the information thus far remains the same,” he said. “Having manufacturers implement some authenticity tracker at the factory is something that can be a revenue source for Amazon and something they pitched a few years ago. It’s not the answer. There still remains no strict mandate by Amazon that completely eliminates all counterfeit and unauthorized sellers from having access to the marketplace. At this time, Birkenstock serves our consumers, including the millions of loyal brand fans we have, in a more meaningful manner by other means of distribution. “

According to Amazon, Project Zero process involves three tools. Amazon’s automated protections scan its stores and remove suspected counterfeits. Brands provide Amazon with their logos, trademarks and other key data, and it scans over 5 billion product listing updates every day.

Next is a self-service counterfeit removal tool whereby brands no longer need to contact Amazon directly to remove a counterfeit listing. Instead, they can do it themselves using a new self-service tool. Amazon said the information also feeds into its automated protections so it can better catch potential counterfeit listings proactively in the future.

Lastly, the e-tail behemoth said a new product serialization service will allow it to individually scan and confirm the authenticity of every one of a brand’s products purchased in Amazon’s stores. The service provides a unique code for every unit that is manufactured, and brands may put these codes on its products as part of its manufacturing process. Every time a product using the service is ordered in Amazon’s stores, it can scan and verify the authenticity of the purchase.

The Project Zero announcement comes on the heels of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission tackling another issue involving online platforms — fake reviews. The agency brought its first successful case against a company that it said paid to artificially boost its product ratings.

The complaint, filed on Feb. 19, alleged Cure Encapsulations Inc., and its owner, Naftula Jacobwitz, paid a website called Amazonverifiedreviews.com to post glowing reviews of a weight loss supplement. Now the company must notify Amazon that it paid for the reviews, violating its terms of service, and must also contact anyone who bought the supplements to disclose the FTC’s findings.

Fake reviews are particularly rampant in high-margin categories like Bluetooth speakers and headphones, per the sites, but certain styles of shoes and accessories are targets, too.

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