Advances in technology can be a blessing and a curse. Who would have ever imagined 10 years ago that most of our retail purchases in 2020 would be from online marketplaces?
According to Digital Commerce 360, consumers spent $601.75 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2019, up 14.9% from 2018. Once consumers realized they wouldn't have to fight the traffic or long lines at the local mall, they started turning to their computer to purchase items from cosmetics and tools to birthday gifts. Now that most of our seniors are finally comfortable with e-commerce, it makes life so much easier for the busy mom, dad or grandparent to purchase a product online from the comfort of their home.
However, if you purchase a counterfeit or an unsafe product, the convenience of buying online doesn't seem so appealing. A counterfeit consumer product or good is one of inferior quality, made or sold using another brand name without the brand owner authorizing it. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) warns citizens that counterfeits are a prescription for disaster. CPB reports, “Consumer habits are changing rapidly as the internet allows individuals to make purchases online. E-Commerce shipments pose the same health, safety, and economic security risks as containerized shipments, but the volume is higher and continues to grow.” Many counterfeit products are low-quality and can cause injuries. One thing is certain, nobody enjoys feeling ripped off or swindled.
Thankfully, a group of bipartisan United States Representatives, Nadler, Collins, Johnson and Roby teamed up to strengthen our laws with the introduction of the “Shop Safe Act”. This legislation will help protect consumers and businesses from the sale of dangerous counterfeit products that may put our seniors health and safety at risk.
Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) told American Senior Alliance, “Counterfeit products directly impact brands and consumers while also posing serious dangers to public health and safety. It is critically important that we combat the sale of these harmful products online.” This innovative legislation goes a long way helping protect those who shop online and from buying unsafe or counterfeit products.
In a Judiciary Committee statement, Representative Doug Collins (R-Ga) said “Congress must create accountability to prevent hazardous items from infiltrating the homes of millions of Americans.” It appears the Shop Safe Act will address many of the concerns that our older Americans have and give them peace of mind. The Judiciary statement offered several points that we are pleased the Shop Safe Act will do. They SHOP SAFE Act will:
- Establish trademark liability for online marketplace platforms when third party sells a counterfeit product that poses a risk to consumer health or safety and that platform does not follow certain best practices.
- Motivate online platforms to establish best practices such as vetting sellers to ensure their legitimacy, removing counterfeit listings and sellers who repeatedly sell counterfeits.
- Call for online marketplaces to take steps necessary to prevent the continued sale of counterfeits by the third party seller or face contributory liability for their actions.
We have a global problem with counterfeiting, not just here in the U.S. An AP news report showed, “In 2017, the losses suffered due to online counterfeiting globally has amounted to $323 billion and pose threats to the welfare of consumers.” Additionally, counterfeiting disrupts the whole society on many levels and harms the reputation of our businesses. Amazon and eBay are saying counterfeiters are not welcome on their sites, so hopefully with this legislation everyone will be forced to step up their game.
Representative Nadler (D-NY) stated, “Consumers should be able to trust that what they see and purchase online is what they will get, but counterfeiters continue to join platforms with ease and masquerade as reliable sellers in order to infect American households with dangerous and unsafe counterfeit products.”
It is important for us to restore the trust to our e-commerce marketplace. Consumer Reports, VP Advocacy, told the Energy and Commerce Committee hearing recently, “It is time to fix the system by shifting greater responsibility to online platforms and ensuring consumer protection agencies can create and enforce accountability in the system.” We agree with Representatives Nadler, Collins, Johnson, Roby and Mr. Friedman, it is time to fix the system to protect consumers, young and old.