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Why Amazon Is Suing Two Instagram Influencers

In the face of its own challenges with policing counterfeits on its global online platform, Amazon has taken new steps to go after those it deems to be bad actors on the site.

The e-commerce behemoth on Thursday filed suit against two social media influencers and 11 others, including businesses, for allegedly advertising, promoting and facilitating the sale of counterfeit luxury goods on its platform, a violation of its Amazon’s policies as well as the law.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington and further alleges that the defendants worked “in concert with each other” to sell counterfeit products and engage in false advertising.

Among the 13 defendants, the suit names social media “influencers” Kelly Fitzpatrick and Sabrina Kelly-Krejci and accuses them of conspiring with sellers to “evade Amazon’s fraud and counterfeit detection tools” by promoting counterfeit products on Instagram and TikTok as well as their own websites.

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For example, alleges Amazon, Fitzpatrick and Kelly-Krejci posted side-by-side photos of a generic, non-branded product and a luxury counterfeit product with the text, “Order this/Get this.” Amazon said “Order this” referred to the generic product the influencers “falsely advertised” on its marketplace, and “Get this” referred to the counterfeit luxury product.

Amazon sues Instagram influencers
Evidence presented by Amazon in its suit against two Instagram influencers and 11 others.
CREDIT: Amazon v. Kilpatrick et al.

Amazon further indicated that the sellers were able to temporarily circumvent its anti-counterfeit by posting only generic items.

”These defendants were brazen about promoting counterfeits on social media and undermined the work of legitimate influencers,” Cristina Posa, associate general counsel and director fo the Amazon Counterfeit Crimes Unit. “This case demonstrates the need for cross-industry collaboration in order to drive counterfeiters out of business. Amazon continues to invest tremendous resources to stop bad actors before they enter our store and social media sites must similarly vet, monitor, and take action on bad actors that are using their services to facilitate illegal behavior.”

Amazon’s legal action this week marks the latest attempt by the company to get a handle on the sale of counterfeit merchandise on its platforms, which have a significant third-party seller activity. As Amazon moves deeper into fashion — and seeks to court more boldface labels — it appears to be taking more aggressive steps to crack down on the proliferation fakes, which may have made such brands leery of the site in the past.

The company said that in 2019 alone, it invested more than $500 million toward protecting customers and brands from fraud, abuse and counterfeit. Among its “proactive investments” are advanced machine-learning based technologies and tools like Project Zero, Brand Registry, and Transparency. In June 2020, Amazon launched its Counterfeit Crimes Unit, a global team it says consists of individuals with specialized experience in investigating and bringing legal action against bad actors.

Amazon has also filed a series of lawsuits against counterfeiters, including this year a joint lawsuit with Italian luxury fashion house Valentino.

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