Consumer groups, manufacturers and retailers have joined the Buy Safe America Coalition, which aims to protect consumers from buying counterfeit and stolen items. The group includes retailers and brands like J.C. Penney, Birkenstock and Gap, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
The organization is advocating for the passage of the INFORM Consumers Act, legislation that would require online marketplaces to gather and verify merchant information and share that information with consumers.
Trade groups, including the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association and the Fashion Accessories Shippers Association, are part of the coalition, too.
The Buy Safe America Coalition is focused on the threat that organized retail crime, and fake and stolen goods, pose to retailers. Per a January report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, cited by the Buy Safe America Coalition, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, handbags, wallets and electronics were among the top items seized in 2018.
"Clothing and apparel retail stores that line Main Streets across the country are on the forefront of the fight against counterfeits and stolen goods," Michael Hanson, spokesperson for the Buy Safe America Coalition, said in a statement. "America's largest apparel companies share our mission to protect consumers and communities and are urging Congress to pass basic transparency and verification requirements to make it harder for bad actors to peddle stolen and counterfeit goods."
As the COVID-19 pandemic shifts nonessential spending online, consumers and regulators have been increasingly concerned about counterfeit sales. Back in March, a report from Red Points found that 68% of U.S. consumers are concerned about more counterfeit or poor-quality goods sold online due to the pandemic. That same month, legislators introduced the SHOP SAFE Act, a bill that would create trademark liability for online marketplaces when third parties sell fake products that could endanger consumer health and safety, but it hasn't moved past the introduction phase. In July, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee also questioned Jeff Bezos about fake items sold over the platform.
But as consumers and regulators navigate the problem of knockoff sales, retailers and brands have taken action on their own. While eBay and Prova Group teamed up in August to authenticate sports memorabilia, Amazon has worked with Valentino and KF Beauty to fight sellers of alleged counterfeit goods in court.
And though Amazon has previously taken steps to stop counterfeit sales — even if some shoppers knowingly buy knockoffs — some brands and retailers like Nike have pulled their goods from the platform. In April, Amazon rolled out a program to remotely verify the identities of its sellers, and in June, the e-commerce giant launched a counterfeit crimes unit to combat fake merchandise.
"We can't rely on third-party marketplaces' current efforts to stop stolen and counterfeit goods from being sold on their platforms," Jim DePaul, executive vice president of stores at J.C. Penney, said in a statement. "Requiring basic safeguards to better collect and verify the identity of those selling goods online is one of the simplest ways to prevent the proliferation of counterfeit and stolen goods being sold online. Without reform, legitimate businesses and brands – and ultimately consumers – will continue to suffer the consequences."