A U.S. apparel trade group has insisted that Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. isn’t doing enough to combat the sale of counterfeit goods on its Taobao marketplace, despite the e-commerce company putting new rules in place earlier this year to remove problematic listings.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association on Monday pressed the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to re-list Taobao as a “notorious” market for selling fake clothing, shoes and handbags.
The popular Chinese shopping site was put on the list in 2011 but removed in 2012 under the condition that it would improve its practices but according to AAFA President and CEO Juanita Duggan, “Our members face enormous difficulty working with Taobao in solving the problems of counterfeits, meanwhile illegal merchandise continues to proliferate.”
In fact, the association said that the issue has exacerbated since Taobao’s de-listing.
Duggan added, “These problems persist despite our repeated efforts to work with them. The sheer volume of counterfeits on the site as reported by our members, along with the company’s unwillingness to make serious reforms is why, after three years, we feel it is necessary to recommend that Taobao be added back to the list and that the U.S. elevate the pressure on them to make substantive, measurable improvements to the counterfeit problem.”
In public comments submitted to USTR, the AAFA explained it had urged Taobao and Alibaba to work with the apparel and footwear industry to address the piracy issue but said that its concerns had not been addressed.
Its submission follows criticism regarding “the slow, sluggish and confusing systems” Taobao uses to process takedown requests, which in April prompted the association to send formal complaints to USTR and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) calling attention to the problem.
Three months later, the AAFA wrote a letter to Jack Ma, Alibaba’s executive chairman, requesting his cooperation in creating transparent, easy-to-use takedown procedures, but said the company did not respond.
“The size and scope of the counterfeit problem for our industry is why we’ve taken such a stand on this issue and why we will continue to assert pressure on marketplaces that sell, encourage or advertise fakes,” Duggan said, noting that about 80 percent of seizures at Customs are fashion-related. “Theft of these products inflicts both reputable and financial harm to our companies and the apparel and footwear industry is the number one victim.”
In addition to Taobao, the AAFA called for several other marketplaces in China, Mexico, Uruguay, Thailand, Ukraine, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, India and Vietnam—both online and physical—to be placed on the government’s watch list.