In 2020, Amazon, one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, has implemented and established strategies, features and resources that are noteworthy to address the rampant issue of counterfeiting and piracy throughout e-commerce platforms and marketplaces. Notably, Amazon now requires third-party sellers to display their names and addresses. Amazon has also established a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit, which is dedicated to identifying and investigating counterfeiters that violate both Amazon’s policies and existing federal law.
Although Amazon already has features that facilitate seller transparency, such as the “Seller Profile” page, store pages for brand owners, and “Handmade Maker Profile” pages, this new requirement will “ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions.” This change to Amazon sellers in the U.S. will be consistent with Seller Profile page requirements already in place across Amazon stores in Europe, Japan, and Mexico.
Prior to this announcement, U.S.-based third party sellers could shield information regarding their business and products behind their Seller Names and in essence remain anonymous. Additionally, trying to get information about such seemingly anonymous sellers from Amazon was a lengthy process for brands and consumers seeking additional information. This made it particularly difficult for brands to undertake enforcement campaigns against potential counterfeiters and unapproved retailers that could and were potentially harming the brand and its associated products. With Amazon’s upcoming changes regarding additional disclosure requirements for third party sellers based in the United States, it will be harder for sellers to remain virtually anonymous on the Amazon marketplace. This change will allow brands to more easily identify a legal entity that they can take action against and more effectively target counterfeiters and the unauthorized sale of counterfeit goods in a timely and efficient manner through more transparency on seller information for third party sellers.
Amazon’s upcoming move to publicly display seller information is in line with their other more recent efforts to combat counterfeiting. For example, on June 24, 2020, Amazon announced a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit which will be “dedicated to bringing counterfeiters attempting to list counterfeit products in its store to justice.” In their announcement of the unit, Amazon noted that in 2019 they had invested over $500 million and had more than 8,000 employees fighting fraud and abuse, including counterfeiting. Amazon further noted that in 2019 their efforts blocked over 2.5 million suspected bad actor accounts before they were even able to offer a single product for sale and over 6 billion suspected bad listings in 2019. Despite these promising statistics, Amazon emphasized that, “it’s critical that Amazon, brands, and law enforcement also go on the offensive and hold counterfeiters accountable for their crimes.”
The Counterfeit Crimes Unit will comprise of former federal prosecutors, experienced investigators, and data analysts, who will support Amazon’s other anti-counterfeiting efforts. This specialized unit will allow Amazon to more effectively, “pursue civil litigation against suspected criminals, work with brands in joint or independent investigations, and aid law enforcement officials worldwide in criminal actions against counterfeiters.”
Ultimately, Amazon’s recent announcement, in conjunction with the creation of its Counterfeit Crimes Unit, that it will publicly display U.S.-based third party sellers’ names and addresses appears to be one part of a larger effort by Amazon to crack down on counterfeiting and the unauthorized sale of counterfeit goods. This effort is welcome news for brands who have previously run into trouble trying to locate unauthorized third party sellers and enforce against counterfeiting and the unauthorized sale of their goods. The benefit of these initiatives may be an additional tool for brands seeking to better enforce their rights and implement anti-counterfeiting efforts on e-commerce platforms.