SOURCE: Consumer Fraud Center
SANTA MONICA, CA--(Marketwire - Dec 5, 2012) - On the heels of citing Amazon Marketplace as one of the channels with the highest potential for the sale of counterfeit consumer goods and a nationwide crackdown by federal authorities on fraudulent websites selling counterfeit goods, the Consumer Fraud Center today issued a strong warning in response to Amazon's recently announced plans to roll out its new "Amazon Pages" feature which lets merchants set up their own "custom destinations" without meaningful consumer warnings or disclaimers.
"Our primary concern for consumers has been the lax controls in monitoring the sale of counterfeit goods on Amazon Marketplace. The launch of Amazon Pages underscores the need for Amazon to step up and take a more active role in protecting consumers from counterfeit goods," said James Lee, executive director of the Consumer Fraud Center. "Amazon has not indicated it will vet any of these merchants and a close review of Amazon's Marketing Services User Guide reveals these merchants are not warned about the use of unlicensed product photos or even required to provide basic contact information or consumer disclaimers, all of which leave consumers vulnerable."
According to Amazon, its Pages feature is designed to use standardized templates to help third-parties create customized landing pages advertising products for sale with customized URLs on Amazon.com. Its Amazon Posts feature will allow these companies to simultaneously publish content on Amazon Pages as well as to Facebook, extending the reach of the shopping site.
The Consumer Fraud Center warned these features lack the consumer warnings and disclaimers it has advocated, and provide cybercriminals powerful new tools for the aggressive sale of counterfeit goods.
"What is most distressing is that Amazon's announcement comes on the heels of a recent nationwide crackdown by federal authorities and seizure of 132 fraudulent websites selling counterfeit goods," Lee said. "At a minimum, Amazon must take the same responsible step that sites such as eBay have taken and warn consumers of the potential for counterfeit goods. Regretfully, Amazon has so far resisted even minimal consumer safeguards."
Lee warned that with the crackdown by federal law enforcement, cybercriminals are being forced to look for more ways to sell their illicit goods and channels such as Amazon Marketplace are providing a new distribution method without much scrutiny so far.
As an example, according to press reports another arrest took place of a Massachusetts man who sold counterfeit UGG boots and fake NFL jerseys on Amazon through a store he set up. This followed a year-long investigation stemming from the import of dubious goods from Hong Kong and China, notorious counterfeit production sites, Lee added.
The Consumer Fraud Center last month gave Amazon Marketplace its highest warning alert because of a recent flood of consumer complaints over counterfeited products. Consumers were most distressed over the perceived authenticity conferred to counterfeiters because of Amazon's allowance for them to utilize its sales, warehousing and distribution systems.
Lee warned that Amazon must take steps to safeguard consumers or face the consequences of a public becoming increasingly victimized by counterfeiters.
"As cybercriminals become more sophisticated in their methods, businesses such as Amazon must do the responsible thing on a voluntary basis or be faced with the potential for regulatory reforms in the absence of it," Lee said. "It happened before with Amazon's refusal to comply with sales taxes and it might very well happen again with counterfeit goods."
A video news release on the Amazon Fraud Alert is available at http://youtu.be/nqW-qSiLRgg.
The Consumer Fraud Center
The Consumer Fraud Center is dedicated to uncovering the use of legitimate online portals and shopping destinations for the sale of counterfeit and fraudulent consumer goods and products. It relies on its network of activated consumers who submit reports on counterfeit goods sold on websites to create a national database of products searchable by consumers, media and law enforcement. For more information, please visit us at www.consumerfraudcenter.com.