Despite spending more than $400 million last year to fight fakes in its e-commerce platform, Amazon still seems beleaguered by its counterfeit conundrum.
The issue has become impossible to ignore, certainly for the company, which admitted the problem for the first time in February. But instead of mitigating matters, the months since have brought a new wrinkle.
In October, the American Apparel & Footwear Association tagged some of the tech giant’s worldwide operations for a “Notorious Markets” list — a roll of foreign online and physical marketplaces known for trafficking counterfeit products — asking the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to approve the inclusion on its annual report.
Now, new reports indicate that members of the Trump administration are pushing for Amazon’s inclusion on the list.
The White House has had a combative stance against Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos and his businesses, including the Washington Post, thanks to its critical coverage of White House affairs.
The scope of antagonism extends to Amazon, a favorite Presidential target of ire in speeches and tweets. Separately and most recently, the company — alongside fellow tech titans Facebook, Google and Apple — has been a lightning rod for probes into alleged antitrust practices.
As for the AAFA, this isn’t the first time the group aimed to put Amazon sites on the list. In 2018, the association sought to add Amazon marketplaces in the U.K., Canada and Germany.
If its latest bid passes, Amazon e-commerce sites in the U.K., Canada, Germany, India and France will join the likes of Taobao.com, which is owned by China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., as foreign markets known for facilitating the sale of counterfeits.
In response to a WWD request for comment, an Amazon spokeswoman said the company “strictly prohibits counterfeit products in our store and we invest heavily to protect our store, customers and brands and as a result, more than 99.9 percent of page views by our customers did not receive a notice of potential counterfeit infringement.”
The response harks back to the company’s response to the AAFA request — a four-page letter addressed to Daniel Lee, acting assistant U.S. Trade Representative for innovation and intellectual property. In it, Amazon said it prevented more than a million suspicious parties from listing items and blocked more than three billion sketchy listings. And, it added, the company backs marketplace products, “even when third-party sellers do not.”
Still, there looks to be plenty of room for improvement. Knockoffs, like the cheap duplicate of Hermès’s $640 Clic H Bracelet, continue to pop up when one searches for the real thing.
For its part, Amazon knows its efforts can’t succeed without help. These efforts include the use of a brand registry and Amazon’s Project Zero campaign, which enlists brands in helping to snuff out phony goods. First launched in the U.S., Project Zero has expanded to Europe and Japan.
“Combatting counterfeit requires collaboration across the industry — from retailers, brands, law enforcement and government, and we continue to be actively engaged with these stakeholders as we hold bad actors accountable and drive counterfeit to zero in our store,” she said.
As for the AAFA, Amazon also had some choice words for the group in its letter. Despite its “best efforts” to work with the group, the company wrote, “many of its member brands have not adopted Amazon’s brand protection tools.”