Amazon blocks 10 billion listings of suspected fake goods

The number of prohibited listings grew by 67% last year as more counterfeiters tried to use the platform during Covid-induced e-commerce boom

Amazon destroyed 2 million products sent to its warehouses last year before they could be sold. AFP
Amazon destroyed 2 million products sent to its warehouses last year before they could be sold. AFP

Amazon, which has been under pressure from shoppers, brands and politicians to crack down on counterfeits on its site, said on Monday that it blocked more than 10 billion suspect listings last year before any of their offerings could be sold.

The numbers were released in Amazon’s first report on its anti-counterfeiting efforts since it announced new tools and technology in 2019. The number of blocked listings of suspected fakes was up about 67 per cent last year on the year before.

The Seattle-based e-commerce company said the number of counterfeiters attempting to sell on the site rose as they tried to take advantage of shoppers who were buying more online during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amazon has been wrestling with counterfeits for years. However, since 2019 it has warned investors in government filings that the sale of fake goods poses a risk to the company and its image.

Brands may not want to sell their items on the site if they know there are fake versions being offered. And knock-offs could cause shoppers to lose their trust in Amazon.

Counterfeiters try to sell their products on Amazon through its third-party marketplace, where sellers can list their items directly on the site.

The company destroyed 2 million counterfeit products sent to its warehouses last year before they could be sold. It said fewer than 0.01 per cent of all items bought on the site received counterfeit complaints from shoppers.

Amazon said it can stop counterfeiters before they can sell anything thanks to machine-learning technology, which automatically scans listings to remove suspected counterfeits.

The company also gives brands a way to remove fake items from the site themselves, rather than reporting them to Amazon and waiting for it to do something.

The company's efforts comes as politicians are looking at ways to reduce counterfeit products online.

In the US, Republican senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois reintroduced the Inform Consumers Act this year. This would require third-party sellers to be verified and disclose their name and address to shoppers. The bill was introduced last year, but was not voted on.

Amazon and smaller online shops such as eBay and Etsy oppose the bill, expressing concerns it could discourage people from starting a small business and selling online. But groups that represent big-box physical retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe's support it because they say it levels the playing field, since physical retailers already make sure their shelves are free of fakes.

Amazon said it spent more than $700 million last year on its anti-counterfeiting efforts and has 10,000 people working on it.

The company has also been filing joint lawsuits with brands, including one earlier this year with Salvatore Ferragamo against counterfeiters who were selling knock-offs of the high-end brand's belts on the site.

Updated: May 11, 2021 01:38 PM

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