Amazon is taking a serious run at counterfeit sellers on its marketplace, with the creation of a Counterfeit Crimes Unit that includes former federal prosecutors, investigators and data analysts.
“Every counterfeiter is on notice that they will be held accountable to the maximum extent possible under the law, regardless of where they attempt to sell their counterfeits or where they’re located,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Vice President of Customer Trust and Partner Support at Amazon in a release. “We are working hard to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks, and we applaud the law enforcement authorities who are already part of this fight.”
Mehta urged more government funding of law enforcement agencies fighting counterfeit crime “because criminal enforcement – through prosecution and other disruption measures such as freezing assets – is one of the most effective ways to stop them.”
In January, the Department of Homeland Security announced a multi-pronged crackdown on counterfeit goods sold online, with trade advisor Peter Navarro calling out a number of marketplaces including Amazon, Shopify, Alibaba, eBay, JD.com and Walmart.com. And in March a bipartisan group introduced the Shop SAFE Act aimed at curbing ecommerce fakes.
One member of Amazon’s anti-counterfeit task force is Cristina Posa, a former senior counsel for the U.S. Justice Department’s Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and past deputy chief of the National Security and Cybercrime Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. She is now an associate general counsel and director at Amazon.
Amazon said its efforts to date have limited customer complaints of counterfeit goods to 1 tenth of 1% of the 12 million+ items listed on its marketplace. In 2019, the company said, it invested over $500 million and had more than 8,000 employees fighting fraud, including counterfeit, blocking over 6 billion suspected bad listings and more than 2.5 million suspected counterfeiters before a product was listed.
Even with that track record, federal legislators called on Amazon and eBay to do more to address the problem of counterfeit goods online, in a hearing this month before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Last fall, a Wall Street Journal investigation found more than 4,100 banned, mislabeled or unsafe products for sale at Amazon.com, saying it had evolved “like a “flea market.”