WASHINGTON — Target Corp. and other retailers squared off against eBay Thursday when the online marketplace's role in policing itself for stolen goods came under Congressional scrutiny at a hearing on organized retail crime, which costs merchants as much as $40 billion annually.
The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism & Homeland Security explored the issues as lawmakers consider introducing legislation to combat organized crime, which stores say has increased significantly with the success of eBay and other Internet auction sites.
"The problem of organized retail crime is growing in dimension," said Rep. Robert Scott (D., Va.), chairman of the subcommittee. "With organized theft rings that employ numerous individuals and cross state lines, state and local enforcement of the laws is inadequate."
The Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime, with members such as Target, Macy's Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, is lobbying for legislation that would clearly define organized retail crime, make it a federal felony and hold online auction sites more accountable for the sale of stolen merchandise.
The coalition is pressing for a provision in the bill requiring more disclosure of information on "high-volume" sellers and posting the serial numbers of products, similar to what eBay requires for the sale of motor vehicles. In addition, the retail group said it is seeking language in the bill that would require sellers to disclose in their listings if they offer merchandise that is "exclusively available only through a certain retail source" and require Internet sites to make that disclosure.
"For years, retailers have vigorously worked to reduce organized retail crime, and as the problem grows, the industry has invested more than $10 billion annually to improve security," said Brad Brekke, vice president of assets protection for Target.
Brekke noted that Target tries to assist law enforcement and said the solution must involve deterrence.
"Sending more people into the criminal justice system is not the answer and not what we are proposing," Brekke said. "We need Internet auction sites to make simple changes as a deterrent to selling stolen property. The simple step of requiring Internet sellers to identify themselves, as well as requiring product identifiers such as serial numbers" to be posted on the site, would help facilitate tracing stolen property.Brekke said a collaborative database, called the Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Network, or LERPnet, launched in April that connects retailers with each other and law enforcement officials sharing statistics on suspected thieves and criminal activity, might be used to track serial numbers.
Robert Chesnut, senior vice president of rules, trust and safety for eBay, defended the company's collaborative efforts with retailers and law enforcement. He told lawmakers that eBay has trading platforms in 38 countries with 240 million registered users and employs 2,000 employees around the world to combat online fraud, including the sale of stolen goods.
In addition, the company has a fraud investigations team that trained some 3,000 law enforcement personnel in North America last year about online fraud, he said.
"When any retailer has concrete evidence to the effect that stolen property is on our site, we will work with them and law enforcement to address the problem, including sharing information about a targeted seller with the appropriate enforcement agency," Chesnut said.
But under questioning from lawmakers about whether eBay would consider taking steps to disclose information about "high volume" sellers and posting serial numbers of products, Chesnut said the company has to "balance the privacy of an individual concerned about having their information posted on the Internet versus the need of the retailer."
The number of law enforcement inquiries regarding possible stolen merchandise on eBay average 1,000 a year, Chesnut said, adding, "We have not seen a significant increase in stolen property reports over the last several years."
“What he has done at Vuitton is really exceptional,” said @gameofthrones’ actress Gwendoline Christie on @mrkimjones’ final show for @louisvuitton. “He has rebooted luxury in terms of making it commercial, viable and contemporary. And most importantly artistic. He has never compromised his artistic vision for the sake of commodity.” (📷: @zefashioninsider)
After seeing a demand for men’s wear from its customers, British contemporary women’s wear label @ariesarise has added a men’s wear component and will launch a unisex collection with @mrporterlive. The 20-piece collection includes jackets, denim, logo T-shirts and more with deconstructed ‘90s vibes. Set to launch on January 18, you can shop the pieces on Aries’ website and on mrporter.com. #wwdfashion
“And so spending so much time with a character who thinks like that, inevitability you try and analyze yourself and go back and think about your own demons and dark chapters that you had in your life,” says @thedanielbruhl of his role in TNT’s “The Alienist.” The show, set in the Gilded Age of New York, also stars Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans. Head to WWD.com to read about how 39-year-old Brühl prepared for the role and why he thinks the show is so relevant to today #wwdeye ( 📷: @Eriktanner)
Now that Celine Dion’s collection has topped $10 million in sales, the pop superstar, fashion icon and newly-minted industry player is eyeing growth in Asia. Read the full report by @tiffanyap, link in bio. #wwdnews #celinedion
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
Among the familiar faces at @off____white’s show was a surprise figure: Japanese artist @takashipom, pictured here on Wednesday morning. Other show-goers included @jerrylorenzo, who spoke about his upcoming project: a @nike collaboration for back to school, with designs inspired by his childhood on the West Coast. Sitting in the front row were Future, Don Crawley, @miguel and more. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: Stephane Feugere)
According to @laurentsai, former “Terrace House: Aloha State” cast member, she didn’t know she was auditioning for the Japanese version of “Real World.” “I was telling a couple of my friends and someone’s like, ‘That sounds a lot like Terrace House.’ I was like, ’No it can’t be.’” Turns out, it was. But Tsai isn’t just a reality star — she’s an illustrator who has worked with Starbucks Japan and most recently, she’s dipping her toes into the fashion world. Head to WWD.com to read about her time on the show, modeling and her art. #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)
More changes are coming to New York Fashion Week: Beginning with the spring 2019 collection, @alexanderwangny will move his New York show to June from September, adopting a biannual schedule with collections shown in June and December. Additionally, the @cfda is planning for an official summer/winter fashion season taking place as soon as June and December 2018. Read more about the upcoming changes on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @slovekinpics)