Amazon.com: more transparency, less counterfeits

Amazon has announced that as of September 1, 2020, the seller’s business name and address will have to appear on the seller’s page while operating on Amazon.com, as is the case with many jurisdictions, including the European Union. The sellers may also add any other information that they deem relevant, with the exception of the email address (sellercentral.amazon.com, 2020-07-08). However, Amazon.com does not specify whether the information provided by sellers will be formally verified or the penalties incurred in false information.

In doing so, Amazon.com responds to a long-standing and persistent claim of consumer associations and intellectual property rights holders. This requirement for transparency was reiterated during March 4, 2020, hearing before the US House of Representatives (iptwins.com, 2020-03-16). The Amazon.com decision also responds to a study that, among others, had pointed to anonymity and opacity on Amazon.com and eBay.com (DM Luna, Anonymous Companies Help Finance Illicit Commerce, and Harm American Businesses and Citizens, Factcoalition.org, May 2019).

In addition, the scale of counterfeiting poses a legislative and judicial threat to online market platforms. Indeed, the unfavorable context for online market platforms pushes Amazon to show its goodwill. In recent years, several companies in the luxury industry have initiated legal proceedings in the United States and elsewhere to end counterfeiting acts perpetrated on Amazon sites. At the request of JM Weston, the Paris court recently sentenced The Frye Company for counterfeit and unfair competition (Lexology.com, 2020-05-06). At the request of the White House (iptwins.com, 2019-04-05), the Department of Homeland Security prepared a report in which it advocates a whole series of measures to reduce online counterfeiting (iptwins.com, 2020-01-29). On March 3, 2020, several representatives from the Democratic and Republican ranks issued a bill aimed at changing the conditions for implementing the responsibility of intermediaries. This bipartisan bill, called Shop Safe Act, aims to oblige intermediaries (in particular marketplaces and social networks) to i) flawlessly identify sellers; ii) verify their legitimacy; iii) delete the offers of counterfeit products and; iv) remove repeat offenders (iptwins.com, 2020-03-03). On March 4, 2020, several members of the Consumer Protection and Trade subcommittee (energycommere.house.gov/subcommittees) – a branch of the Energy and Trade Committee of the United States House of Representatives (energycommerce.house.gov) -, held a hearing on the safety of the products made available to the audience on online market platforms. Counterfeiting was at the heart of the debate (iptwins.com, 2020-03-16). Finally, as part of the annual calls for contributions intended for the production of the 301 report, the holders of intellectual property rights and representative associations regularly indicate Amazon (e.g., UNIFAB (iptwins.com, 2018-11-22) and the American Apparel & Footwear Association (iptwins.com, 2018-10-18)). Despite its policy of not mentioning U.S. businesses in its Section 301 report, the U.S. Department of Commerce had to designate Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, and Amazon in its report for the year 2019, (ustr.gov, 2019 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy, p. 16). Admittedly, this is not Amazon.com, but the latter appears in the report drawn up by the European Commission (iptwins.com, 2018-12-16).

On the European Union side, the legislator is preparing an instrument, called the Digital Services Act (DSA), which will replace the E-Commerce directive. In all likelihood, the DSA will include tough measures against Internet counterfeiting.

As a result, counterfeiting seriously damages the image of Amazon, a phenomenon that the e-commerce giant is trying to reduce by heavy investments which translate into a multitude of measures. Finally, the disclosure of the trade name and the address is a way to gain the trust of the holders of intellectual property rights at a time when, according to some rumors, Amazon is considering launching a new platform exclusively for the luxury industry.

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