Amazon agrees to disclose seller names to curb rogue traders

Amazon has told sellers on its websites that from September 1 they will no longer be able to operate anonymously, a move which could help tackle the sales of counterfeit goods.

In a notice posted this week, the e-commerce giant said from that date a business or individual will have their name and address published on the site, adding that this will “help customers learn more about the businesses of a seller and the products that they are selling.”

There’s no mention of counterfeit sales on the update, but it seems likely that the move comes in response to criticism about fake goods being sold on its third-party marketplace, which resulted in some of its sites being added to the US government’s notorious markets list earlier this year.

Amazon says it has already required this information in Europe, Japan and Mexico, but that didn’t stop its French, German and UK sites being listed as notorious markets.

These three sites – plus those in Canada and India - were added to the list amid complaints by brand owners that they carry high levels of counterfeit goods, it can be difficult to establish exactly who is selling them, and removal processes can be “lengthy and burdensome.”

The Trump administration and other authorities – including the EU – are also eyeing legislation that will force e-commerce platforms like Amazon, eBay and Alibaba to do more to prevent counterfeit sales.

A set of recommendations issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in January specifically included pre-sale identification of third-party sellers among measures e-commerce platforms can adopt to curb counterfeits.

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The latest move by Amazon has been welcomed by brand owners but has also raised some concerns among individual sellers about privacy, with some suggesting that this could be overcome by use of a PO Box, but seems to have been welcomed on balance, according to the comments on the company’s announcement page.

Sellers can choose to add more information to their data if they choose, although Amazon advises them to not include an email address to prevent spam and abuse, relying instead on messaging functions within its platform.

“We are making this change to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions,” says Amazon.

Third-party sellers accounted for 58 per cent of all goods sold on Amazon’s platforms in 2018, according to the company’s chief executive Jeff Bezos.

Last year, the US-based Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition – which campaigns for changes in the law to curb corrupt financial practice – published a report saying that anonymous shell companies are driving organised crime’s involvement in the counterfeit trade.

These companies have helped criminals across the US sell several billion dollars in fake and counterfeited luxury handbags and apparel accessories in recent years, it said.

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