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A handful of Amazon’s foreign websites were included in the U.S. government’s annual “notorious markets” list due to concerns they host some counterfeit goods.
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) office released its 2020 review of notorious markets on Thursday. The list identifies e-commerce sites and companies that are believed to be facilitating the sale of counterfeit goods, engaging in intellectual property violations or piracy.
Amazon sites in the U.K., Germany, Spain, France and Italy were named in the report. Complainants against the foreign sites alleged that Amazon’s counterfeit removal process is slow, even for companies that are enrolled in its brand protection programs. They also argued that Amazon doesn’t thoroughly vet third-party sellers on its marketplace or make it clear to brands and consumers “who is selling the goods.”
Amazon disputed the trade representative’s report, which didn’t include Amazon’s U.S. site, and pointed to its extensive programs and tools that are designed to stop counterfeiters.
“Including Amazon in this report is the continuation of a personal vendetta against Amazon, and nothing more than a desperate stunt in the final days of this administration,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement. “Amazon does more to fight counterfeit than any other private entity we are aware of.”
Representatives from the USTR didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly been critical of Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos during his four-year term. Bezos owns The Washington Post, which Trump has criticized for its unfavorable coverage of his administration. Amazon has also claimed it didn’t win a Pentagon cloud-computing contract, which could be worth as much as $10 billion, as a result of attacks from Trump against the company and Bezos.
Amazon sites were added to the USTR’s notorious markets list for the first time in 2019. The American Apparel & Footwear Association in 2018 urged the trade representative to include some Amazon sites on the list.
Beyond Amazon, other companies named on the list include Chinese e-commerce site Pinduoduo, South American e-commerce company Mercadolibre and file sharing site The Pirate Bay.
Amazon has stepped up its efforts to curtail counterfeits as the third-party marketplace has grown. The marketplace now accounts for more than half of the company’s overall sales and hosts millions of third-party merchants.
While it remains a critical component of Amazon’s business, the marketplace has also faced a number of issues related to the sale of counterfeit, unsafe and expired goods. In 2019, Amazon began mentioning counterfeit products as a risk factor in its annual filing.
The company has pursued counterfeiters in court, rolled out various programs to seek and detect sales of counterfeit goods, and in June launched the Counterfeit Crimes Unit, made up of former federal prosecutors, investigators and data analysts, to mine the site for fraudulent activity.
As a result of these and other efforts, 99.9% of pages viewed by customers on the site have never had a valid report of counterfeit, the spokesperson said.