Amazon’s European sites cited among portals “notorious” for trading counterfeit goods
In the 2020 annual review of “notorious markets for counterfeiting and piracy”, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has pointed the finger to a number of websites for their selling of fake products. The document, which was lauded by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), zeroed in on some 40 web portals, among them Taobao, Snapdeal and Amazon’s European sites.
Naturally, the mention of the US e-commerce giant has made waves, especially in America. The USTR explained in the review that rights holders face “significant financial losses” for the high levels of counterfeit goods traded on, among others, Amazon’s British, German, Spanish, French and Italian sites, underlining how difficult it is for consumers to know who they are buying goods from. Rights holders are also lamenting Amazon’s lack of effectiveness at blocking out illegal sellers, and the long, complex procedures it requires to withdraw counterfeit products from the sites. “This even applies to those who have joined Amazon’s brand protection programme,” said the report, adding that, since “the scale and sophistication of the counterfeiters have continued to grow and evolve over the years, these right holders indicate that Amazon should commit the resources necessary to make the brand protection programs scalable, transparent, and most importantly, effective.”
More specifically, the review noted that rights holders “[are asking] that Amazon take additional actions to address their concerns, including by collecting sufficient information from sellers to prevent repeat infringers from creating multiple storefronts on the platforms, making detailed information about the real seller of a product obvious to consumers and right holders, being more responsive to complaints of counterfeits by right holders, and being more proactive in preventing counterfeit goods from appearing on the platform.”
Unsurprisingly, a number of Chinese websites are listed among those habitually selling counterfeit products. Specifically, B2B platform DhGate, social-shopping network Pinduoduo, e-commerce platform Weidian, which is integrated into WeChat (the app owned by Tencent) via the Weidian Mini Program, and of course Taobao, the powerful portal owned by the Alibaba group. The latter has been threatened with blacklisting by the US authorities in recent weeks, suspected of being owned or controlled by the Chinese armed forces.
However, the USA and China aren’t the only countries mentioned in this worldwide survey of websites notorious for trading fake products. The list also includes leading Indonesian portal Tokopedia, major Indian e-commerce site Snapdeal, Shopee from Singapore, Saudi website Haraj and, from Latin America, the Mercado Libre platform, popular in a growing number of countries.
The AAFA has commended the report, having contributed to it by conveying to the USTR the complaints and recommendations made by thousands of fashion and footwear brands belonging to the association. According to AAFA, publicly exposing the sites most involved in the sale of counterfeit goods is a key step in pressurising them to take action against it. The AAFA also welcomed the fact that the report, which would usually mention non-US websites only, no longer hesitates in listing local players too. However, AAFA indicated that a report by itself cannot be a substitute for changes in legislation.
“The [outgoing] 116th Congress was exploring legislation that would have instituted common-sense requirements to provide consumers with transparency about who they are purchasing from,” indicated AAFA in a statement, adding that “it is time to take the steps necessary to protect American consumers and American businesses from the many harms of counterfeit sales, and we look forward to working with the 117th Congress and the incoming Biden Administration to see these new requirements enacted at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Now that there is a new majority in the US Senate, the question is whether Congress will continue on the basis of the work already undertaken, or whether it will prefer to make a fresh start. There is also the issue of the future relationship between the new administration and the major tech companies, collectively known as GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon). Trump’s election campaign regularly labelled Joe Biden as a “friend of Big Tech,” while Donald Trump was one of its strongest antagonists, especially of Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.
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