Amazon might have another fight on its hands.
On Tuesday, the American Apparel and Footwear Association wrote a letter asking the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to include several country-specific sites run by Amazon in its Notorious Markets report, which AAFA CEO Rick Helfenbein called a “valuable tool in the fight against the sale of counterfeit products.”
In its submission for the 2019 Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets—which highlights overseas marketplaces both online and off that “purportedly engage in and facilitate substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting”—AAFA requested that the USTR list five websites run by Amazon among the 130 real-world marketplaces and eight digital counterparts that its members identified as bad actors outside of the U.S.
For the second year running, AAFA called out Amazon’s British, Canadian and German sites, while amazon.fr and amazon.in for France and India were included for the first time this year.
Though Amazon is no stranger to accusations of failing to root out fakes and frauds, much of that scrutiny has focused on the domestic market. The online retailing giant has taken important steps this year to combat the sale of knockoff goods as well as accounts run by unscrupulous vendors with the advent of Project Zero and Brand Registry, which helps legitimate outfits manage their intellectual property.
Helfenbein acknowledged the complicated part Amazon plays in retail today. “Despite its role as a leader in the worldwide retail landscape, and as an important selling partner for many of our member brands, Amazon continues to present significant counterfeit challenges,” he explained, noting that the e-commerce giant’s anti-counterfeiting efforts, while commendable, fall short.
“While we are happy to have seen increased engagement with Amazon on brand protection issues during the past year, that engagement regrettably has not translated into a discernible decrease in counterfeits of our members’ products on Amazon’s marketplaces,” Helfenbein added. “We hope that Amazon will be able to dramatically expand their collaboration with our industry, significantly ramping up the commitment, resources, actions, and leadership necessary to resolve this problem.”
However, the letter did note that some brands in direct communication with Amazon reported a decline in the number of counterfeit and infringing products discovered on the company’s many marketplaces. Still, members said, Amazon’s seller vetting process lacks any sort of rigor and shoppers often don’t know from whom they’re buying.
“All of these blurred lines only serve to allow Amazon to further their sales while evading accountability, and ultimately, liability,” the letter said.
AAFA also took the USTR to task over the Notorious Markets report’s focus on foreign bad actors when there’s shady business going on in the home market, too.
“We feel that it is time for USTR to expand the report to include domestic marketplaces,” Helfenbein said, adding that counterfeits harm both consumers and brands regardless of where they’re sold. “In recent years domestic sales of counterfeit product has become a bigger problem within the U.S., and we hope USTR will consider expanding the scope of this valuable report.”