More than a dozen retail trade groups are banding together to fight counterfeits on online platforms — most notably e-commerce behemoth Amazon.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association — whose members include big-box chains Walmart and Target — announced today that it has joined forces with the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association and other industry groups to establish The Buy Safe America Coalition.
“This is a problem that has festered unchecked for too long,” said RILA senior EVP for public affairs Michael Hanson. “The evidence is overwhelming that these illegitimate sales are happening on dominant online marketplaces, yet big tech platforms, like Amazon, have done very little to crack down on these sales.”
Together, the coalition plans to back legislation that would increase the scrutiny of products that appear on digital marketplaces and protect consumers from purchasing stolen goods or counterfeits. Among these is the so-called Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers or INFORM Consumers Act that would require online platforms to authenticate the identities of high-volume third-party sellers — defined as businesses that make 200 or more sales a year that amount to $5,000 or more.
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The bill, which was introduced in July by United States Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, would enable consumers to view merchants’ basic identification and contact information, including their names, phone numbers, business addresses and emails. (U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, and Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, introduced the Senate companion bill in March, while Representative Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat, is an original cosponsor of this month’s House bill.)
“American manufacturers and retailers alike are fighting to survive as they compete with knock-off versions of their own products, sometimes appearing to be authentic, but lacking in quality or safety,” Schakowsky said in late July. “It is critical for consumers and legitimate businesses be protected from counterfeit, stolen and dangerous products by requiring more transparency on online marketplaces.”
Amazon is no stranger to accusations surrounding the sale of knockoffs: As it continues to expand, the online giant has been increasingly reliant on third-party sellers to meet demand, with more than half of its product sales hailing from such merchants, over which the Seattle-based company lacks full control. The situation has strained Amazon’s relationship with some stakeholders as well as certain existing and potential brand partners, including Birkenstock, which has refused to do business with the e-tailer.
Last February, Amazon 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. Two months ago, it doubled down on the battle against knockoffs with the launch of an internal “Counterfeit Crimes Unit” — which the retailer said is made up of former federal prosecutors, investigators and data analysts — to prevent fraudsters from selling fake merchandise on its site.