Black, Latin Community Groups Call for INFORM Consumers Act
December 3, 2021
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Dear Majority Leader Schumer, Senator McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and Representative McCarthy:
For the past few months, community leaders have witnessed a disturbing trend impacting our families and neighborhoods—a dramatic increase in street crime. While crime and theft are not new problems, what is happening in many communities today is different from petty theft and property crimes of the past. What has taken root is organized and more brazen. What we are witnessing are not people stealing for want or hunger, these are orchestrated and coordinated attacks on local businesses designed to quickly steal thousands of dollars of products that can easily be re-sold online. This is organized criminal activity, and it is beginning to crack the foundation of our local business community.
As a result of these attacks, several retailers have closed their doors or shortened hours. Some political leaders have bemoaned these outcomes and attacked the retailers for making these decisions, but the reality is that no business—big or small—is going to invest in a community if they can’t keep their business or their employees safe. And what has been lost in the finger-pointing, is the impact on law abiding citizens in these communities. When stores close and hours are shortened in our communities, its often to the detriment of those who can least afford to lose conveniently located, affordable goods and services.
Local retailers and pharmacies are more than just a convenient place to buy food and medicine, they are important outposts for vital services like wellness checkups and vaccinations. We saw how vital these services were to our communities during covid, as local retailers made it their mission to quickly and safely vaccinate millions of Americans, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions and auto-immune complications which made them particularly vulnerable to life-threatening complications from a covid infection and for those in socially vulnerable communities.
We cannot afford for these stores to abandon our communities, but neither can we expect these stores to stay open when their goods are routinely ransacked and their employees are threatened by marauding criminal rings.
When hours shorten, it impacts working families with busy schedules. When stores close, it often means longer and more costly transit to the next available option. And if the problem persists, it has a domino effect on the rest of the local business community. As any community leader knows, it can be tough to combat this trend if a particular block or corner becomes “undesirable”, and the impact spirals to the detriment of other small businesses nearby that depend on regular foot traffic.
This problem is complex, but there is a viable common-sense solution on the table that all policymakers should support to combat this trend: making it harder to build a business selling stolen products online.
Legislation at the state and federal level called the INFORM Consumers Act would make it harder to anonymously sell goods online. It’s simple legislation that would require businesses to provide basic, verifiable information to weed out crooks using online marketplaces to anonymously unload stolen products. In addition to making it harder to sell stolen goods behind fake screen names and bogus business information, it would have the added benefit of making it harder to rip off consumers by peddling counterfeit and knockoff products too.
How would online transparency impact Main Street businesses? Simple: Make it harder to sell stolen goods online, and you reduce the incentive and profit motive of criminal networks to steal. Criminals aren’t as dumb as some politicians like to think they are. If they have nowhere to sell stolen goods—or there is a much higher risk of getting caught—some of these career criminals will call it quits.
We’ve got to stop the finger pointing and start advocating for common-sense solutions to reducing crime in our communities. INFORM is one of those solutions, and it should have the support of every local business and community leader that cares about reversing the trend of stores closing and shortening hours in our community. The most vulnerable in our community that depend on these businesses are counting on us to act.
Elizabeth A. Jones, National President, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. (NCBW)
Thomas Dortch, Jr., Chairman, 100 Black Men of America, Inc. (100 BMOA)
Sindy Benavides, CEO, League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Reverend Stephen A. Green, Chair, Faith for Black Lives (FFBL)
The Buy Safe America Coalition represents a diverse group of responsible retailers, consumer groups, manufacturers, intellectual property advocates, and law enforcement officials who support efforts to protect consumers and communities from the sale of counterfeit and stolen goods.Learn More
The marketplace today for common, everyday goods is flooded with counterfeit and stolen products. Absent reform, legitimate businesses, and consumers will continue to be harmed.Learn More
Frequently Asked Questions
What constitutes a counterfeit product? Why aren’t major online marketplaces doing more? Answers to common questions around the issue of organized retail crime.Learn More