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Counterfeit Crimes Unit

The online firm Amazon has set up a Counterfeit Crimes Unit. The retailer describes it as a global, multi-disciplinary team composed of former United States federal prosecutors, investigators, and data analysts.

The firm says its first objective is to prevent a counterfeit from ever being listed in its store. It says that 99.9pc of Amazon products viewed by customers did not have a valid counterfeit complaint. In 2019, Amazon spent over $500 million and had more than 8,000 employees against fraud, including counterfeit. The firm says it has blocked over six billion suspected bad listings in 2019 and blocked over 2.5 million suspected bad actor accounts before they were able to make a product available for sale.

The unit will investigate cases where a bad actor has listed a counterfeit. The unit will mine company data, cull information from external resources such as payment service providers and open source intelligence, and ‘connect the dots’. The firm also speaks of civil litigation against bad actors, work with brands in joint or independent investigations, and aid to law enforcement worldwide.

Dharmesh Mehta, Vice President, Customer Trust and Partner Support, Amazon, said: “Every counterfeiter is on notice that they will be held accountable to the maximum extent possible under the law, regardless of where they attempt to sell their counterfeits or where they’re located. We are working hard to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks, and we applaud the law enforcement authorities who are already part of this fight. We urge governments to give these authorities the investigative tools, funding, and resources they need to bring criminal counterfeiters to justice because criminal enforcement – through prosecution and other disruption measures such as freezing assets – is one of the most effective ways to stop them.”

In the UK, consumer campaign group Which? has found the Amazon’s Choice endorsement label being applied to potentially poor quality products that appeared to have been artificially boosted by incentivised and fake reviews. Which? likewise has found evidence of fake or misleading reviews appearing on platforms including eBay and TripAdvisor, as well as users trading fake and misleading reviews on Facebook. In February Which? said Amazon’s recommendation system is ‘inherently flawed and easily gamed by unscrupulous sellers’.

Meanwhile a report by Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) described counterfeit goods as an attack against society requiring an international response. The report said that a range of crimes are linked to intellectual property crime, including pharmaceutical crime, drug trafficking, manslaughter, illegal arms possession, forced labour, food fraud, excise duty fraud, VAT fraud, corruption and money laundering.


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