Days after the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC) abruptly suspended Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group's membership, Alibaba President Michael Evans assured the organization that it is leveraging its scale and its data prowess to find and eliminate fakes from its marketplaces.
Speaking Thursday at the IACC's spring conference in Orlando, Evans (who took the place of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, initially scheduled give the keynote) said “We believe the future of Alibaba—and the future of many of your companies—will depend on us working closely together to fight counterfeits,” according to Boomberg. "We have the scale, we have the data and we have the commitment to be a global leader in anti-counterfeiting.”
The IACC suspended Alibaba's membership following outcry over its inclusion in the group's ranks: Gucci America, Michael Kors and Tiffany & Co. all left the IACC after Alibaba joined, citing rampant counterfeiting across its marketplaces. Jennifer Kuperman, Alibaba's head of international corporate communications, said in a statement that the suspension is a “step in the wrong direction and regrettable.”
Evans is saying what Alibaba has said before—that it’s cooperating with law enforcement, and taking action leading to the arrest of counterfeiters.
Last year, Alibaba assisted authorities in the arrests of 300 people, the takedown of counterfeit-making factories and the confiscation of fakes worth $125 million, according to Evans. He said that last year Alibaba itself also purchased more than $15 million suspected fake goods and that its Alipay payments unit froze suspected counterfeiters’ accounts to the tune of $72 million. And, Evans said, last year customers who bought fakes were refunded some $12 million.
But while Evans maintained that Alibaba’s tech capabilities and immense scale would help enormously in the effort to combat counterfeiters, it’s not clear that he addressed longstanding criticisms that the company has failed to implement effective systems to police fakes. Brands continue to report that Alibaba’s enforcement program is too slow, too difficult to use and also lacks transparency, according to a report last year from the U. S. Trade Representative. “Brand owners continue to report Alibaba platforms, particularly Taobao, are used to sell large quantities of counterfeit goods,” according to that report.
Alibaba recently reported fiscal fourth-quarter revenue rose 39% year over year to RMB 24.2 billion ($3.7 billion U.S.), with marketplace revenue rising 41% year over year to RMB 18.34 billion ($2.84 billion U.S.). Annual active buyers on Alibaba’s China retail marketplaces increased to 423 million, a hike of 16 million over the prior quarter, while mobile app users in March 2016 reached 410 million, an increase of 17 million over December 2015.
Alibaba has made significant investments in a variety of overseas businesses (including a billion-dollar buy in Singapore-based e-commerce startup Lazada Group, its biggest foreign investment so far) in an effort to expand more widely across Asia. It is also making concerted moves to increase the number of big-name brands on its marketplace.