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Alibaba under fire again as 18 trade bodies complain to USTR

Pressure is mounting on Alibaba over its record on keeping counterfeits off its e-commerce sites, with no fewer than 18 trade bodies asking for them to be re-listed as 'notorious markets'.

In a letter addressed to assistant US Trade Representative (USTR) Probir Mehta, the organizations - representing a broad range of product categories - say they want platforms such as Taobao and AliExpress back on the black list because of "the enormous number of counterfeits that persist on Alibaba platforms."

The signatories - form North America, Europe and Asia - say Alibaba has failed to make good on pledges to change its processes and meet the recommendations of the USTR's 2015 report. They include the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) - which has repeatedly called for action against the Chinese company buy the USTR.

"Although the wide availability of counterfeits on ecommerce sites is not confined to Alibaba platforms, Alibaba has now become one of the largest ecommerce sites with hundreds of millions of subscribers and the ability to penetrate markets globally on a scale never before seen," say the industry groups.

"At any given moment, a consumer around the world can choose from hundreds of thousands of counterfeit clothes, shoes, travel goods, handbags, toys, auto parts, jewelry, watches, furniture, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and other articles," they write.

USTR's last report 10 months ago warned Alibaba that it needed to introduce more efficient systems to respond to right holders' concerns and takedown requests for counterfeit listings, making Taobao's good faith takedown procedures generally available, and reducing timelines for takedowns and issuing penalties for counterfeit sellers.

TaoBao was listed on the USTR's Notorious Markets list of copyright and trademark infringers until 2012, but was removed in later reports "in recognition of efforts to address rights holder and consumer complaints," according to the 2014 edition.

"Alibaba has also made a number of high profile hires and is reportedly spending more resources to tackle this problem and explain its effects in Washington and around the world," say the trade organisations, which along with the AAFA include the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers
Association (MEMA), Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and Travel Goods Association (TGA).

"While this increased attention is a welcome development, we have seen little evidence that there has been any noticeable change on the Alibaba platforms themselves."


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