Online retail giant Amazon has established a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit in a bid to crackdown on fakes being sold on its platform.
The Counterfeit Crimes Unit is a global, multi-disciplinary team composed of former federal prosecutors, experienced investigators, data analysts, and will join Amazon’s work to eliminate counterfeiters.
Amazon said its primary focus continues to be in preventing a counterfeit from ever being listed in its store. In 2019, the internet behemoth invested more than US$500m and had over 8,000 employees fighting fraud and abuse, including counterfeit. Amazon noted its efforts have blocked over 6bn suspected bad listings in 2019 and more than 2.5m suspected bad actor accounts before they were able to make a single product available for sale.
Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit will investigate cases where a bad actor has attempted to evade Amazon’s systems and listed a counterfeit in violation of Amazon’s policies. The Counterfeit Crimes Unit will mine Amazon’s data, cull information from external resources such as payment service providers and open-source intelligence, and leverage on-the-ground assets to connect the dots between targets.
“Every counterfeiter is on notice that they will be held accountable to the maximum extent possible under the law, regardless of where they attempt to sell their counterfeits or where they’re located,” said Dharmesh Mehta, vice president, customer trust and partner support, Amazon.
“We are working hard to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks, and we applaud the law enforcement authorities who are already part of this fight. We urge governments to give these authorities the investigative tools, funding, and resources they need to bring criminal counterfeiters to justice because criminal enforcement—through prosecution and other disruption measures such as freezing assets—is one of the most effective ways to stop them.”
The Counterfeit Crimes Unit enables Amazon to more effectively pursue civil litigation against bad actors, work with brands in joint or independent investigations, and aid law enforcement officials worldwide in criminal actions against counterfeiters.
The US has been looking at ways to double down on blocking counterfeit goods from entering the market for some time.
In February, President Donald Trump passed an executive order (EO) aimed at preventing the entry of fake goods into the country sold to US citizens online. It followed a report from the Department of Homeland Security which said fake goods being trafficked to American consumers through online third-party marketplaces is threatening both the public health and safety as well as national security.
According to the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), clothing and footwear are among the top five most highly pirated goods. In October last year, US border police seized over US$22m in fake Nike shoes.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) has previously taken aim at Amazon for the way it handles counterfeits and intellectual property infringement and called for more of the retail giant’s sites to be added to its Notorious Markets list.
While in May, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTRR) placed five of Amazon’s country websites on its ‘Notorious Markets’ list following complaints from US businesses over the sale of fake goods. Complainants said it is difficult for consumers and right holders to determine who is selling the goods and that anyone can easily become a seller on the platform since Amazon does not sufficiently vet sellers. They added counterfeit removal processes can be lengthy and burdensome, even for right holders that enrol in Amazon’s brand protection programmes.