Amazon claims apparel industry group is undermining its fight against counterfeit products

(Jonathan Weiss Photo)

Amazon responded Tuesday to the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) with claims of its own after the industry trade group asked the U.S. Trade Representative to designate several of the tech giant’s international online stores as “notorious markets” for counterfeit goods.

In a four-page letter to Daniel Lee, acting assistant U.S. trade representative for innovation and intellectual property, Amazon detailed its efforts to fight counterfeit products through a variety of initiatives designed to register and authenticate products, and said it was blindsided by some of the AAFA’s claims despite holding monthly meetings with members of the trade group.

The company claimed that some members of the group are themselves hindering the fight against counterfeits.

“Contrary to the suggestion in AAFA’s submission, these efforts are working, as over 99.9% of the products that customers actually view in Amazon’s stores never have received a complaint about a suspected counterfeit from a customer or rights owner,” wrote Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, in the response. “Amazon solicits constructive feedback from brands and associations as to how it can continue to improve those tools, make the process easier for brands, and more effectively fight counterfeiters.”

Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy.

He added, “However, when brands refuse to use the tools that Amazon makes available to them, offer only anonymous criticism that is directly refuted by available data, or conflate concerns about counterfeits with questions like the ‘unauthorized’ distribution of authentic products, the shared goal of combatting counterfeiting is undermined rather than enhanced.”

“Despite the demonstrated effectiveness of Amazon’s tools, however, some AAFA member brands have refused to use them,” he wrote. “Further, AAFA did not attempt to raise or resolve the concerns in their filing with Amazon prior to submitting them, despite the forum that the monthly meeting provides. AAFA’s suggestion that Amazon is not doing its part to eliminate counterfeits from its stores does not stand up to the data from Amazon’s efforts on behalf of AAFA members.”

We’ve contacted the AAFA for comment on Amazon’s response.

In its Oct. 1 filing, the AAFA asked the U.S. trade representative to list (United Kingdom), (Canada), (Germany), (France) and (India) as “notorious markets” for counterfeits, a designation meant to prod companies and regulators to take action to crack down on fraudulent goods.

“Despite its role as a leader in the worldwide retail landscape, and as an important selling partner for many of our member brands, Amazon continues to present significant counterfeit challenges. Thus, we felt it was necessary to again ask USTR to list Amazon,” said Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the AAFA, in a statement at the time. “While we are happy to have seen increased engagement with Amazon on brand protection issues during the past year, that engagement regrettably has not translated into a discernible decrease in counterfeits of our members’ products on Amazon’s marketplaces.”

He added, “We hope that Amazon will be able to dramatically expand their collaboration with our industry, significantly ramping up the commitment, resources, actions, and leadership necessary to resolve this problem.”

Initiatives detailed by Amazon in its response include the recently launched “Project Zero” program with a self-service tool that gives companies the ability to remove suspected counterfeit products from Amazon’s online stories.

The company also announced a new Intellectual Property Accelerator program designed to help sellers protect their products.

Amazon said in its response that its efforts are “producing positive results.”

Last year, the company said, its “proactive efforts prevented over 1 million suspected bad actors from publishing a single product for sale in our stores, blocked over 3 billion suspected bad listings from being published on our stores, and ensured that over 99.9% of products that customers actually viewed in Amazon’s stores never have received a complaint about a suspected counterfeit from a customer or rights owner.”

In August, an investigation by The Wall Street Journal found more than 4,000 products on Amazon’s third-party marketplace that had either been banned or declared unsafe by regulators. The company responded by publishing the steps it takes to make sure third-party products are safe.

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