Amazon is planning to provide an increased amount of information about the sale of counterfeit goods on its platform to law enforcement, a person familiar with the impending program told Reuters. According to the publication, to date, Amazon “has informed authorities of counterfeit peddlers when it thought it had enough information for police to pursue a culprit.” Going forward, the $1 trillion e-commerce empire “plans to disclose merchant information to European and U.S. federal authorities every time it confirms a counterfeit was sold to customers, increasing the frequency and volume of reporting to law enforcement.”
While Reuters states that it is “not immediately clear” why the new program is happening now, it is difficult not to suspect that there is a potential link between the Jeff Bezos-launched company’s allegedly impending new approach to counterfeits and its continued attempts to woo fashion and luxury brands to its site. It was revealed this month that the Seattle-based giant is looking to unveil a high-end platform on its site after years of trying (and largely failing) to win over the trust of fashion brands.
According to reports, Amazon’s soon-to-launch platform will work similarly to the concession model employed by department and specialty stores, where a brand will run a mini-shop inside an existing store, a set-up that enabled brands to maintain greater control over the offerings and display of their products, etc.
Maybe more striking than that, though, are the reports that the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) is mulling the addition of various international arms of Amazon’s main U.S. operation to its annual list of international bad actors, i.e, companies that are “reported to be engaging in and facilitating substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting.”
On the heels of Washington, DC-based trade group American Apparel and Footwear Association urging the USTR to include foreign domains owned and operated by Amazon in its 2019 “Notorious Markets” review, which would be a “watershed event,” largely because of the company’s American heritage, the Wall Street Journal revealed that for a second year in a row the “Trump administration [was] considering putting some of Amazon.com overseas websites” on the list, but noted that “no decisions [had] been made.” (Amazon’s international offshoots were not ultimately included on the USTR’s 2018 list.)
To date, Amazon has been consistently attacked by brands and consumers, alike, for failing to act extensively – and proactively – enough to rid its expansive third-party marketplace site of large swathes of blatant counterfeit goods. Interestingly, for the first time in its 25-year history, Amazon explicitly made mention of the potential presence of counterfeit goods on its site in its February 2019 10-K filing. In a single line in the “risk factors” section of the yearly report it files with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Jeff Bezos-owned company stated, “We may be unable to prevent sellers in our stores or through other stores from selling unlawful, counterfeit, pirated, or stolen goods, selling goods in an unlawful or unethical manner, violating the proprietary rights of others, or otherwise violating our policies.”
The company has long maintained, however, that it “strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products and invests heavily – both funds and company energy – to ensure our policy against the sale of such products is followed.”