Alibaba bans airbag components to prevent the sale of fakes

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has banned the listing of car airbag components on its platform, citing safety concerns and to prevent the sale of counterfeits as the reason behind the move.

The crackdown, which began last month, relates to SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) -related equipment, which includes the airbag and the components that enable the car safety device to function, Alibaba’s news service Alizila reported.

According to the online marketplace, 22,000 online listings from 700 vendors have already been removed from two of its platforms, and measures, including big data algorithms, are in place to intercept and block future listings.

Alibaba said it was leading the e-commerce industry in banning the airbag components.

The online retailer has already banned the sale of airbags on its platforms since 2014 “because of the potential for significant safety-related issues”.

The new prohibition extended to airbag components has also been made on the grounds of safety, “as well as to halt potential fakes”, Alibaba said.

The move comes after concerns were raised by the Automotive Anti-Counterfeiting Council (A2C2), Alibaba said.

Airbags are particularly prone to counterfeiting, with online marketplaces such as Alibaba and eBay being popular sites to sell the devices.

In May in the US, two Mexicans were charged with trafficking in counterfeit airbags, which they were listing and selling online, while in February, a British man was charged with selling fake airbags on eBay to as many as 680 people.

The industry has continually warned consumers over the years to be diligent in their airbag purchases.

“We are pleased to see Alibaba take these important steps to help protect the integrity of online marketplaces, especially for airbags and select SRS-related equipment,” said Andy Forsythe, president of the Automotive Anti-Counterfeiting Council. “We look forward to continuing to work with Alibaba and other online marketplaces to protect consumers from counterfeit auto parts.”

Alibaba said that the effectiveness of intellectual property enforcement actions increased when the platform worked with brands, rights-holders and industry groups.

“Effective collaboration among all stakeholders is essential. We are all part of the solution,” said Matthew Bassiur, head of global intellectual property enforcement at Alibaba.

But the car industry has been highly critical of Alibaba in the past, and the e-commerce site’s move to ban airbag components follows criticism earlier this month from the Auto Care Association, a membership organisation for manufacturers, distributors and the automotive aftermarket, which urged the US Trade Representative to relist Alibaba as a notorious market for counterfeit auto parts.

“Despite Alibaba’s efforts to address the proliferation of counterfeit products, our members report that their brand protection tools and enforcement programme have been unsatisfactory,” said Bill Hanvey, president and chief executive of the body. “Not only do counterfeit products threaten the US economy, and impact our members’ sales and brand value, counterfeit auto parts do not comply with any safety regulations and are a danger to the safety of consumers.”

Alibaba has stepped up its efforts to crackdown on counterfeits on its platforms amid criticism and has been pushing a socially responsible image, which it hopes is winning over consumers and brands. This year alone the marketplace has introduced a more stream-lined process for takedown requests and formed the Alibaba Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance with 30 brands.

However, its reputation as a platform where counterfeits are rife appears to be slow to budge despite the company’s best efforts. Survey results revealed at the recent WWD Apparel and Retail CEO Summit found that 51 per cent of those interviewed believed the company was “not doing as much as it says it is doing”, while 39 per cent said they thought it was “starting to take the right steps” with 10 per cent saying the firm was “doing everything it can be expected to do”, Jing Daily reported.

Alibaba president Michael Evans spoke at the event, saying the survey results highlighted poor communication on the anti-counterfeiting progress Alibaba was making, adding: “The communication and understanding of IP protection issues takes a long time for brand and retailers to appreciate and understand.”

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