Clothing body wants TaoBao re-listed as 'notorious'

TaoBao imageA US trade group representing the clothing sector is urging the federal government to put Chinese e-commerce site TaoBao back on its list of 'notorious' markets for counterfeit goods.

The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) has been vocal in its criticism of Taobao and parent company Alibaba, sending a letter of complaint to US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman in April which pointed to "rampant proliferation" of counterfeit goods on the site.

The latest broadside from the AAFA notes the government removed TaoBao from its notorious markets list in 2012 on condition that the company improve its practices, something that the AAFA insists has not happened.

"Our members face enormous difficulty working with TaoBao in solving the problem of counterfeits, meanwhile illegal merchandise continues to proliferate," said AAFA president and chief executive Juanita Duggan.

"These problems persist despite our repeated efforts to work with them," she continued, adding that putting TaoBao back on the list would "elevate the pressure on them to make substantive, measurable improvements to the counterfeit problem."

The notorious markets list is for online and physical marketplaces that are linked to substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting, and is updated each year. During a comment period - which has just ended - interested parties can make a case for including marketplaces in the list. The AAFA's submission can be viewed here.

In a statement, Alibaba said it was prepared to discuss the issue of counterfeit listings with the AAFA but claimed the trade group had refused a meeting.

Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang told investors over the summer that the group is "taking steps to improve the quality and health of our marketplaces through proprietary data technology and collaboration with government agencies in China."

"We believe the efficacy of our technology-driven approach, as well as our commitment to gain the trust of consumers and brands are increasingly driving bad actors off our platforms," he asserted.

The company is currently facing a lawsuit from luxury goods group Kering SA - which owns brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) and Puma - claiming it is not doing enough to protect brand owners and the public from counterfeit goods.

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