Amazon’s Bezos tells Congress: ‘we do a lot' on counterfeits

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has defended his company’s actions to stamp out counterfeits on its sites at a Congressional hearing in the US.

Congressman Henry Johnson (D-Ga) told the hearing that Amazon “acts like it’s not responsible for counterfeits being sold by third-party sellers on its platform,” adding: “we’ve heard that Amazon puts the burden and cost on brand owners to police Amazon’s site, even though Amazon makes money when a counterfeit good is sold on its site.”

Noting that more than half of the e-commerce giant’s sales comes from third-party sellers, he asked why Amazon isn’t “more aggressive” in tackling the problem.In response, Bezos said counterfeits are a “scourge” and a “problem that does not help us earn trust with customers,” but argued: “we do a lot to prevent counterfeiting.”

He said Amazon employs more than 1,000 people dedicated to this issue, and spends “hundreds of millions of dollars” on systems to tackle counterfeits.

Johnson pressed Bezos by asking again why Amazon isn’t responsible for keeping counterfeits off its platform, and referring to reports that the company is using knock-offs “to pressure sellers to what Amazon wants.”

He cited the example of Pop Sockets – stick-on, customisable grips for mobile phones that have become incredibly popular in the last couple of years – which has claimed Amazon itself was selling counterfeits.

Pop Sockets alleges that on reporting the problem it was only after the company committed to spending $2m on advertising that Amazon took action to stop diverting sales to the copycat products.

“If those are the facts…that is unacceptable,” responded Bezos, promising to look into the case.

Colour-shifting film: A proven, anti-counterfeiting solution for brand protection and product authentication

The exchange on counterfeiting came amid a fractious five-hour hearing in which Amazon and other tech companies – Facebook, Google and Apple – were taken to task by representatives on a range of topics that followed a central theme of abuse of a monopolistic position.

Commenting on the exchange on Twitter, Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), noted that Bezos had called on Congress to combat counterfeits online, adding: “I couldn’t agree more, that’s why I introduced the INFORM Consumers Act last week.”

She then suggested Amazon seems to be lobbying against the bill, which would make it mandatory for any online retail platform that allows third-party sellers – including Amazon, eBay and Alibaba for example – to authenticate the identity of “high-volume sellers.”

Earlier this month, Amazon said that from September 1 sellers in the US will be unable to operate anonymously, stipulating that a business or individual will have to have their name and address published on its sites.

In February, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that aims to prevent counterfeit products from overseas from being sold to US citizens via online retail sites.

The order delivers on a memorandum published by the White House last year, which pledged to crack down on counterfeit goods being sold on platforms.

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