In a letter to Congressional leadership on Thursday, the CEOs of 20 leading retailers across the U.S. expressed urgent concern over the growing impact of organized retail crime.
The signatories, which included the heads of Nordstrom, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Foot Locker, implored lawmakers to pass the “INFORM Consumers Act,” legislation that will modernize consumer protection laws to safeguard families and communities from the sale of illicit products.
“While we constantly invest in people, policies, and innovative technology to deter theft, criminals are capitalizing on the anonymity of the Internet and the failure of certain marketplaces to verify their sellers. This trend has made retail businesses a target for increasing theft, hurt legitimate businesses who are forced to compete against unscrupulous sellers, and has greatly increased consumer exposure to unsafe and dangerous counterfeit products,” said the letter, sent by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).
“In the current environment, criminal networks and unscrupulous businesses have exploited a system that protects their anonymity to sell unsafe, stolen, or counterfeit products with little legal recourse,” the letter continued. “This lack of transparency on particular third-party marketplaces has allowed criminal activity to fester.”
The executives called on Congress to modernize consumer safety laws to help curb retail crime and counterfeit activity.
“Implementing basic transparency and verification protocols is essential and will finally expose criminals who are selling consumers stolen, fake, and dangerous products,” the letter said.
According to the letter, the “INFORM Consumers Act” is a bipartisan measure that aims to increase transparency online for all marketplaces, making it easier for consumers to identify exactly who they are buying from, and make it harder for criminal elements to hide behind fake screen names and false business information to fence illicit products while evading law enforcement. The legislation has unified retailers, consumer groups, manufacturers, law enforcement, and all those serious about stopping the sale of counterfeit and stolen goods sold online, the letter said.
This move comes as retail crime has spiked across the country, especially in big cities, just as the holiday season heats up. During Thanksgiving weekend, several mall shootings cast a shadow on the busy after-Thanksgiving rush to stores as some retailers across the country deal with flash mob robbery sprees that have put a damper on holiday cheer.
Nordstrom has been particularly affected by the crime surge. Roughly 80 people were involved in a smash-and-grab theft at the Nordstrom store at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek, California last month. When asked how it was beefing up its security efforts this holiday season, a Nordstrom spokesperson told FN last month that: “Given recent incidents at our stores and incidents across the industry, we’re heightening our in-store security presence and implementing additional protective measures to keep everyone safe.”