A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate Tuesday aims to increase online marketplace transparency and accountability to combat the rapidly growing problem of counterfeit and stolen goods sold through these digital channels.
The Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act, or INFORM Consumers Act, introduced Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Il.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and cosponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), would modernize consumer protection laws and require online marketplaces to collect and verify basic business information from sellers before they are permitted to sell online.
In addition, the legislation would require high-volume sellers to provide contact information to consumers. The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), which supports the measure, said removing seller anonymity on these platforms will create basic accountability measures that will help protect consumers from counterfeit goods and make it more difficult for criminals to profit from selling stolen or counterfeit merchandise.
“Transparency and accountability on the part of trusted online marketplaces is essential, especially in an age where e-commerce has become so important to providing affordable fashion,” AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar said. “However, we currently see limited and frankly insufficient efforts by many online platforms when it comes to verifying the identities of sellers and monitoring for counterfeits. The burden to flag and seek removal of these counterfeits has unfairly fallen on our member brands. We expect to see online marketplaces vet and proactively exclude counterfeiters to protect invaluable intellectual property and the safety of consumers.”
AAFA noted that its Brand Protection Council focuses on the global war against counterfeit apparel, footwear, accessories and other supplier products. AAFA recently submitted comments to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as part of the agency’s review of secondary trademark infringement liability in the e-commerce setting, calling for legislation to hold online platforms liable for counterfeit goods sold on their sites as part of this submission.
AAFA is also a member of the Buy Safe America Coalition that represents a diverse group of responsible retailers, consumer groups, manufacturers, intellectual property advocates and law enforcement officials who support efforts at all levels of government to protect consumers and communities from the sale of counterfeit and stolen goods.
AAFA added that throughout the pandemic, U.S. e-commerce sales grew by 44 percent as more families shopped online. It said legislation such as the INFORM Consumers Act will help slow down the criminal networks targeting unsuspecting customers with the sale of stolen, counterfeit, expired, dangerous and defective products.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation for consideration.