Retailers call on Congress to fight online sales of stolen and counterfeit goods

A coalition of major retailers is calling on Congress to take action to address the online sale of stolen and counterfeit goods, which has coincided with a spike in smash-and-grab thefts in major cities.

The chief executives of more than 20 businesses penned a letter to congressional leaders on Thursday asking them to take measures against the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods online, pointing to the impact organized retail crime is having on the online shopping market.

“As millions of Americans have undoubtedly seen on the news in recent weeks and months, retail establishments of all kinds have seen a significant uptick in organized crime in communities across the nation,” the letter reads.

“While we constantly invest in people, policies, and innovative technology to deter theft, criminals are capitalizing on the anonymity of the Internet and the failure of certain marketplaces to verify their sellers. This trend has made retail businesses a target for increasing theft, hurt legitimate businesses who are forced to compete against unscrupulous sellers, and has greatly increased consumer exposure to unsafe and dangerous counterfeit products,” it adds.

The letter was addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Top executives of CVS Health, AutoZone, Best Buy, Home Depot, Kroger, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Target signed the letter, among others.

A number of smash-and-grab crimes took place at stores and malls in major metropolitan areas, especially in San Francisco and Chicago, around Thanksgiving and Black Friday, when customers were flocking to stores to buy gifts for the holiday season.

Experts told The Hill that the spike in online shopping amid the pandemic has, in part, driven the increase in organized retail crime. With more people staying in their homes to protect themselves from COVID-19, perpetrators of organized retail crime see an opportunity to sell stolen goods to a larger audience.

House and Senate members have in recent months introduced versions of the Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act, which seeks to fight the sale of stolen, counterfeit and dangerous consumer products online by increasing transparency.

Specifically, the legislation — which is backed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — is advocating for online retail marketplaces to confirm the identities of “high-volume third-party sellers” which some say will help stop people from settling stolen products online and prevent vendors from putting counterfeit goods on the market.

The executives endorsed the bicameral bill, writing that it is “a simple, bipartisan measure that will increase transparency online for all marketplaces, making it easier for consumers to identify exactly who they are buying from, and make it harder for criminal elements to hide behind fake screennames and false business information to fence illicit products while evading law enforcement.”

“This legislation has unified retailers, consumer groups, manufactures, law enforcement, and all those serious about stopping the sale of counterfeit and stolen goods sold online,” they added.

The letter writes that “It is time for Congress to modernize our consumer safety laws so consumers, retail employees, and businesses are not targets of organized retail crime and dangerous counterfeit products.”

“Implementing basic transparency and verification protocols is essential and will finally expose criminals who are selling consumers stolen, fake, and dangerous products,” it adds.

Tags Charles Schumer Counterfeit Counterfeit consumer goods Counterfeit medicines online Kevin McCarthy Merchandising Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Online shopping Organized crime Organized retail crime retail

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