Amazon Moves to End the Scourge of Fake Goods on Its Platform

The retailer aims to fix that – in part by providing brands the capacity to flag knockoffs and fast-track their removal from its online marketplace.

Amazon on Thursday introduced”Project Zero,” that enables participating brands to utilize a self-service tool to take down bogus listings. The initiative streamlines a process that required brands to produce a report, then wait for Amazon to investigate and do it. The tool is now only available by invitation, but Amazon said it plans to open it up to other manufacturers soon.

“This provides brands an unprecedented ability to control and eliminate listings from our shop,” the company wrote in a press release. “This information also feeds into our automatic protections so that we could better catch prospective counterfeit listings proactively in the future.”

It’s an unprecedented move for Amazon, that has come under fire – particularly from major brands – for not taking a more active role in fighting counterfeits. Although Amazon prohibits the sale of counterfeit products on its own stage, the e-commerce giant was accused of reaping the rewards of those sales while shifting blame to the third-party merchants which sell them.

Amazon’s gigantic third-party marketplace has long been a virtual wild west, partially due to the ease of entry. Merchants can register on Amazon with contact information, a company name and basic financial advice like a bank account and credit card.

Such merchants represent a massive discussion of Amazon’s business; at 2017, more than half the products sold on the website came from these vendors according to a letter from chief executive Jeff Bezos, printed in April. (Bezos possesses The Washington Post.) Since Amazon’s marketplace has been flooded with overseas retailers and retailers, it’s made it tougher to keep tabs sellers peddling fake products.

The Counterfeit Report, advocacy group which works with companies to stop the selling of counterfeit products, states on its website an estimated 13 percent of all products sold on Amazon are imitation. The group says e-commerce is an perfect means of supply for counterfeit products.

The standing for halfhearted enforcement has cost Amazon company, too, particularly from luxury brands. Daimler, the German automaker and parent firm of Mercedes-Benz, accused Amazon of letting the selling of fake Mercedes-Benz wheel caps at a November 2017 suit.

Nick Hayek, chief executive of Swiss watchmaker Swatch Group, also has slammed Amazon, saying Chinese rival Alibaba was more committed to fighting fakes. Swatch had been in discussions to sell some of its higher-end watches on Amazon, but the deal fell apart when Amazon refused to consent to proactive measures against counterfeits and unscrupulous retailers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“They refuse to enter into conversation because they have, I think, 10,000 of attorneys that say,’Pleasewe at Amazon, we shouldn’t enter into anything which should induce us to struggle against fakes,'” Hayek stated in an April interview with CNBC.

The Project Zero rollout is based on the heels of Amazon’s first public acknowledgement of the”risk factor” that unlawful third-party retailers pose to its business.

“To the extent that some of this occurs, it could damage our business or harm our reputation and we can face criminal or civil liability for unlawful activities by our sellers,” Amazon composed in the filing.

Included in Project Zero, Amazon has been testing automated enforcement steps that use data from brands, like trademarks and logos, to hunt down imitation goods in its marketplace. The Seattle-based company asserts the automatic protections”proactively stop 100 times more suspected counterfeit products” than responding to individual reports does.

The codes can then be scanned when products make it to Amazon warehouses to guarantee they haven’t been duplicated. But it’s up to brands to place the codes in their goods during the production process, and codes cost one to five cents a pop, based on volume, according to coverage from the Wall Street Journal.

“We’re excited to get this self-evident counterfeit elimination tool to your US Marketplace and consider this for an insurance plan.”