U.S. Border control enforcers are signaling a more aggressive stance against what they say is a rising tide of counterfeits streaming in, especially through online purchases.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a report saying it plans to ramp up enforcement against counterfeits, including by nudging e-commerce platforms to take more steps to thwart counterfeiters on their platforms and by empowering the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to use all the resources at its disposal, including the threat of civil penalties, to target violators.
“It is critical to the integrity of e-commerce and for the protection of consumers and rights holders that e-commerce platforms that operate third-party marketplaces, and other third-party intermediaries assume greater responsibility, and therefore greater liability for their roles in the trafficking of counterfeit and pirated goods,” the report said.
The moves in particular target the import of small-value products under $800 that enter the country duty-free under the Section 321 statute, which include consumer products purchased online.
The report highlighted the exponential growth of e-commerce in recent years — e-commerce sales increased by 13.3 percent in the second quarter of 2019 from the previous year, with companies including Amazon and Walmart seeing especially rapid growth, according to the report.
“While counterfeit and pirated goods have been sold for years on street corners, alleys, and from the trunks of cars, these illicit goods are now marketed to consumers in their homes through increasingly mainstream e-commerce platforms and third-party online marketplaces that convey an air of legitimacy,” the report said.
The DHS also pointed to its own data showing its dramatic increase of counterfeit seizures over the past decade, which rose by roughly 10 times between 2000 and 2018 to nearly 34,000 seizures per year.
Trade organizations lauded the move on Friday.
“We commend the administration for making a commitment to bolster efforts to crackdown on counterfeits, particularly in the textile and apparel sector, which has been hit hard by fake imported products for decades,” said Kim Glas, president and chief executive officer of the National Council of Textile Organizations, the trade group representing textile and fabric companies in the U.S.
According to NCTO, nearly two million shipments enter the U.S. duty-free daily.
“The administration’s report is the latest in a string of government research that has highlighted the growing counterfeit crisis, a crisis caused by counterfeiters taking advantage of third-party online marketplaces that service the needs of millions of American families,” said Steve Lamar, president and ceo of the American Apparel & Footwear Association.