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Amazon Has a New Plan to Crack Down on Counterfeits

Signaling increasing concern about the proliferation of counterfeit goods on its platform, Amazon has agreed to work more closely with law enforcement to root out bad actors.

The online retail giant plans to hand over more data on the fake goods listed on its marketplace, an anonymous source told Reuters.

Recent years have seen rampant dupes for popular products on the site, which have long irked small sellers and popular retail brands alike. Footwear stalwarts Birkenstock and Nike have both pulled products from the marketplace altogether, citing, among other issues, sub-par efforts by the company to keep counterfeiters in check.

While Amazon has worked with authorities in the past on pursuing specific culprits, the company will now provide merchant information to European and U.S. federal bodies each time it confirms that an illicit product was sold to a customer—undoubtedly increasing the frequency and volume of reports to law enforcement.

Amazon has held a number of meetings over the past few weeks in which executives and government authorities discussed the new reporting strategy, the source told Reuters. The intention behind the plan is to help law enforcement draw connections between offenders on the marketplace.

Amazon will close the store run by any merchant found to have sold a counterfeit product. Should a seller’s attempt to appeal that decision be denied due to evidence of illicit activity, the vendor’s details will be turned over. Merchant and company names, along with product and contact information, will all be made available to authorities.

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Amazon’s efforts in recent years to combat counterfeits with advanced, technology-driven tools have yielded mixed results.

The company’s highly touted Brand Registry service allows brands to register their trademarked products, unlocking automated protection tools that rely on machine learning to detect and even predict the sale of counterfeits. A serialization service called Transparency allows brands to physically affix codes to individual products, so that they can be tracked and ultimately verified as real by end consumers.

Despite the company’s significant investment into these programs, fakes are still finding their way onto the site with alarming ease.

In October of last year, American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) CEO Rick Helfenbein wrote to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), requesting that Amazon’s British, Canadian, German, French and Indian e-commerce sites be included in the agency’s Notorious Markets report. The list includes selling venues and marketplaces that USTR has deemed untrustworthy.

Amazon shot back, citing its $400 million investment in hiring 5,000-plus employees to police fraudulent and abusive behaviors, including counterfeiting.

Despite its earlier defensive stance, it appears the e-tailer is finally making moves to invite outside forces into the fray.

Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) selected Amazon as one of nine companies to take part in its Section 321 Data Pilot program.

Designed to measure the impact of low-volume e-commerce customs enforcement, the voluntary collaboration with online marketplaces, carriers, technology firms and logistics providers will help CBP to secure e-commerce supply chains and protect American consumers.

The pilot program, which will run through August of 2021, will include eBay, Zulily, FedEx, DHL and UPS, as well as technology firm PreClear and logistics providers XB Fulfillment and BoxC Logistics.