The sale of fraudulent goods is said to be a US$509bn criminal enterprise

The sale of fraudulent goods is said to be a US$509bn criminal enterprise

The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) is one of several trade bodies to join a new task force aimed at cracking down further on the marketing and sale of counterfeit and stolen goods on the US market.

The Buy Safe America Coalition has been launched by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), with members including the AAFA, Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association, and the Fashion Accessories Shippers Association.

The Buy Safe Coalition will work to advance the Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers (INFORM) Act in Congress and modernise consumer protections laws at all levels of government.

The INFORM Act aims to 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.

According to the Buy Safe Coalition, citing a Department of Homeland Security report, the sale of fraudulent goods is a US$509bn criminal enterprise.

"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," says 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 US 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."

AAFA President and CEO Steve Lamar, adds: "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 organisations, brands, and policymakers to advance the INFORM Act and to ensure that consumers have a safe experience when shopping online."

The US has been taking steps 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 that 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. 

Meanwhile, the 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.

In May, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) placed five of Amazon's country websites on its 'Notorious Markets' list as it moved to crack down further on fakes entering the country.

However, Amazon established a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit last month in a bid to crackdown on fakes being sold on its platform.

In recent years, Amazon has launched several initiatives to combat counterfeit sales on its marketplace including Brand Registry, Project Zero and Transparency. Last year alone it invested $500m in tackling store abuse and fraud.

In response to the claims Amazon is not doing enough to tackle counterfeiting through its website, a spokesperson told just-style: "Amazon strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products and we invest heavily in both funds and company energy to ensure our policy is followed. We work with and empower brands through programmes like Brand Registry, Transparency, and Project Zero to ensure only authentic products are sold in our stores. We investigate any claim of counterfeit thoroughly, including removing the item, permanently removing the bad actor, pursuing legal action or working with law enforcement as appropriate. 

"We have more than 8,000 employees protecting our store from fraud and abuse. We also stopped over 2.5m suspected bad actor selling accounts before they published a single listing for sale and blocked more than 6 billion suspected bad listings before they were published to our stores."