Williams-Sonoma Inc. recently filed a lawsuit against Amazon, alleging the e-commerce giant's Rivet furniture and home goods private label line sells "knockoffs" of products from its West Elm brand, according to court documents.
"Amazon has set up an unauthorized WILLIAMS-SONOMA branded store on its website, falsely claiming that these retail services are 'by Williams-Sonoma' and leading to a variety of customer complaints misdirected to WSI that actually concern Amazon's unauthorized retail services," the lawsuit states.
Amazon declined to comment to Retail Dive and West Elm did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
This is far from the first time Amazon has encountered blowback from brands over the sale of counterfeit goods on its marketplace. In 2016, Apple sued an Amazon supplier for selling fake Apple phone chargers on the site and later that year Birkenstock pulled its products from Amazon over counterfeiting concerns.
Counterfeits are a perpetual problem for Amazon and many other marketplace sellers. A study published this year by the Government Accountability Office found that 43% of online purchases made by staff turned out to be fake merchandise.
In an effort to curb the sale of counterfeit goods on their sites, this summer four marketplaces — including Amazon, eBay, Alibaba and Rakuten-France — signed a Product Safety Pledge committing to the faster removal of dangerous products from their listings. The definition of "dangerous products" included terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, unsafe products and copyright infringement.
Earlier this year, Amazon also tested a brand registry to help find and take down counterfeits, as well as offering brands a program called "Transparency," which can code package labels to allow consumers to check their purchase against official brand information. On the matter of counterfeits, an Amazon spokesperson previously told Retail Dive: "In order to detect bad actors and potentially counterfeit products, we make significant investments in machine learning and automated systems."
In play here is also the question of how Amazon is developing its private label brands. Between the beginning of 2017 and April 2018, Amazon added 66 private labels, which was six times the labels it launched in the two-year period before that, according to Gartner L2. In the past, brands have been faced with tough choices when selling through Amazon, as the e-commerce giant frequently evaluates best-selling products from brands selling through its platform and creates its own private label products based on their success, according to an L2 report from last year.
Considering its play for the competitive mattress and home goods space, Rivet is likely a brand that many retailers in the space have their eyes on.