Amazon Forms ‘Counterfeit Crimes Unit’ to Crack Down on Fakes

Amazon is doubling down on its fight against knockoff products.

The e-commerce giant announced today that it has formed an internal “Counterfeit Crimes Unit” to prevent fraudsters from selling fake merchandise on its site, which violates the law and the company’s anti-counterfeit policies.

The team — which the retailer said is made up of former federal prosecutors, investigators and data analysts — will also look into cases where a “bad actor” has attempted to list a counterfeit item. It will mine Amazon’s data and gather information from external resources, including payment service providers, to find counterfeiters and pursue legal action if necessary.

“We are working hard to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks, and we applaud the law enforcement authorities who are already part of this fight,” VP of customer trust and partner support Dharmesh Mehta said in a statement. “We urge governments to give these authorities the investigative tools, funding and resources they need to bring criminal counterfeiters to justice because criminal enforcement — through prosecution and other disruption measures, such as freezing assets — is one of the most effective ways to stop them.”

Knockoffs continue to plague Amazon’s marketplace, drawing the ire of consumers, shareholders and even brands — some of which, including Birkenstock, have refused to do business with the e-tailer. Last February, the Seattle-based company acknowledged its counterfeit problem with the launch of Project Zero, which aims to drives down fake product sales with the use of an automated scanning tool and a product serialization service.

However, in October, the American Apparel and Footwear Association penned a letter to the United States Trade Representative, urging it to include Amazon’s marketplaces in France and India to its yearly list of “Notorious Markets,” which pinpoints the businesses that facilitate trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy. (In 2018, the AAFA had also recommended the USTR add the Amazon websites in Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom to the list.)

The new Counterfeit Crimes Unit is part of Amazon’s broader efforts to hold counterfeiters accountable through financial penalties, civil litigation or criminal prosecution. It said that its anti-counterfeit programs have ensured 99.9% of products viewed by customers on its site did not have a valid counterfeit complaint. The company last year invested more than $500 million to fight fraud on its marketplace, adding that it blocked upwards of 6 billion suspected “bad listings” plus 2.5 million suspected sellers on its site.

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