August 14, 2020
Leading Retailers Launch Coalition to Protect Consumers Online
Buy Safe America Coalition Will Lead Efforts to Crack Down on Organized Retail Crime on Dominant Online Marketplaces
Washington, DC - Today, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) launched the Buy Safe America Coalition, a diverse group of associations who support efforts at all levels of government to combat organized retail crime (ORC) and protect consumers and communities from the sale of counterfeit and stolen goods.
Organized retail crime refers to criminal networks that steal merchandise in mass quantities from storefronts and sell those goods online. Retailers have long reported costly problems with ORC, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently warned that dominant online marketplaces, including Amazon and Facebook, are facilitating the trafficking of pirated and counterfeit goods. Amid the pandemic, leading retailers say these networks are becoming even more aggressive.
The sale of fraudulent goods is a $509 billion criminal enterprise according to the DHS report.The ease of selling illicit goods to unsuspecting consumers has attracted organized criminal networks that are becoming more aggressive and brazen. This jeopardizes the safety for frontline retail workers, puts consumers at risk of buying potentially dangerous products, and undermines legitimate businesses. What’s worse, the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods has been connected to other heinous crimes like human and drug trafficking.
Despite these realities, dominant online marketplaces have not taken action and continue to let these issues worsen. Last month, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Anti-trust Subcommittee on a wide range of issues and was asked about the growing problem of the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods on the company’s online marketplace. Mr. Bezos admitted during the hearing that stolen and counterfeit goods were being sold on the Amazon marketplace, and this issue continues to persist on the company’s platform. His responses raised further questions about Amazon’s willingness to crack down on these bad actors who are anonymously selling stolen or counterfeit goods to unsuspecting consumers.
“The time has come for dominant online marketplaces to collect and verify third party seller information so consumers are protected and law enforcement is informed. This is a problem that has festered unchecked for too long,” said RILA Senior Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Michael Hanson. “Dominant marketplace platforms are selling stolen goods, expired and defective products, products made with unsafe levels of chemical substances, and products that do not meet U.S. quality and safety standards. These products would never be allowed on a store shelf or a retailer’s website. 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. This is a solvable problem and leading retailers are proud to lead the Buy Safe America Coalition to advance efforts at all levels of government to protect consumers and communities from the sale of counterfeit and stolen goods.”
Last month, Congress made progress on this issue when Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced the Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers (INFORM) Act. The Senate version was introduced in March by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the INFORM Consumers Act would mandate online marketplaces collect and verify the identity of high-volume third-party sellers by obtaining their government ID, tax ID, bank account information and contact information. The INFORM Act is supported by responsible retailers, consumer groups, manufacturers, intellectual property advocates and law enforcement officials.
“Consumers deserve the peace of mind that the products they are buying are legitimate and safe,” said Rep. Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “But for too long, dominant online marketplaces have turned a blind eye to third-party sellers peddling counterfeit, stolen and dangerous knock-off products on their platforms. These companies have a responsibility to protect consumers from those bad actors that are seeking to defraud consumers.”
The Buy Safe Coalition will work to advance the INFORM Consumers Act in Congress and modernize consumer protections laws at all levels of government. Members of the Buy Safe America Coalition include The Toy Association, American Apparel and Footwear Association, Gemini Shippers, Halloween Costume Association, ICSC: International Council of Shopping Centers, Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association, Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association, Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade, Consumer Healthcare Products Association, TIC Council, Fashion Accessories Shippers Association, Communications Cable & Connectivity Association, and RILA.
“The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) supports the Buy Safe America Coalition, and its goal to promote accountability and transparency on the part of online marketplaces. For too long, bad actors have taken advantage of the current framework to hide their true identities when selling counterfeit goods, leaving little recourse for IP rights holders and consumers. We look forward to partnering with organizations, brands, and policymakers to advance the INFORM Act and to ensure that consumers have a safe experience when shopping online,” said AAFA President and CEO Steve Lamar.
“Whether sold online or in a neighborhood toy store, all toys need to comply with strict U.S. product safety standards. But enforcement of products sold through ecommerce is near impossible without sufficient proactive measures in place to stop unsafe, counterfeit or otherwise illicit products from going online in the first place,” said Rebecca Mond, VP federal government affairs, The Toy Association. “We are pleased to join this coalition and push for common sense reforms. Collecting and verifying seller identifying information will go a long way to reduce opportunities for criminals to sell dangerous illicit products and to empower families with the information they need to make smart buying decisions and would help enforcement efforts.”
“The proliferation of counterfeit products on the market undermines the process in place for decades to keep babies and children safe. Manufacturers across our industry are deeply concerned about this issue and focus considerable time, effort and dollars on ensuring their brands are represented accurately in the marketplace, products are tested to all applicable safety standards and parents’ expectations are met. Yet more must be done to keep counterfeit products out of the marketplace, and the work of the Buy Safe America Coalition is critical to that end. JPMA joins this cross-industry coalition in fully supporting the INFORM Act,” said Kelly Mariotti, Executive Director, Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.
Visit BuySafeAmerica.org for more information about the growing problem of stolen and counterfeit goods and solutions to better protect consumers and businesses.
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 at all levels of government to protect consumers and communities from the sale of counterfeit and stolen goods.
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