Amazon yesterday filed two lawsuits against individual sellers of counterfeit products, for the first time in its 20-plus year history. The suits list ToysNet, who allegedly made and sold a knock off version of Forearm Forklift’s furniture moving strap, and Joana Ferreira, accused of ripping off the TRX workout strap and selling it under the TRX name, in a Washington state court.
The filings come just months after Amazon courted Chinese companies to list on their marketplace amidst a number of growing concerns for buyers, sellers and victimized brands.
On the consumer end, online marketplace shoppers have long expressed concern about being burned by unknowing counterfeit purchases. This especially extends to designer shoes, handbags and other recognizable accessories. Take, for example, Birkenstock, who had counterfeit competitors listing its famous footwear for less than the brand’s retail price. A bargain-hunting consumer is more likely to spring for the cheaper option thinking they’re getting a great deal instead of being taken, ultimately hurting sales for the authentic brand and the shopper who lost out on the cost of purchase plus the quality guaranteed by the original brand. In the end, Birkenstock walked away from Amazon by pulling its merchandise from the site.
Brands built on Amazon also feel the burn, often being crushed by cheaper, fake competition. Sellers have fought back by creating support groups for each other and voicing concerns directly to Amazon executives during town hall meetings.
On the high-end designer level, labels like Hermes and Gucci have built their reputations on quality and exclusivity, which counterfeits directly attack. A number of lawsuits have been filed against counterfeiters and e-commerce sites that list them, including Gucci and Lacoste against iOffer, Kering v. Alibaba and Tiffany & Co. v eBay. Other designers, like Michael Kors who has perhaps been the most outspoken against counterfeiters and e-commerce sites who list them, have fought back in other ways like partnering with anti-counterfeiting associations.
But back to Amazon’s lawsuits, which would benefit all those involved.
The timing comes as the holiday shopping season is underway, providing customers with a peace of mind that their purchases will be authentic. They also represent a crackdown on Amazon’s existing anti-counterfeiting policy, and hopefully offering companies the support they’ve been requesting from the e-commerce giant. The suits can also be seen as a strategic move, separating Amazon from other online bazaars like eBay, iOffer and, most notoriously, Alibaba, who have all come under the gun for fake merchandise.
— Christine Galasso