USTR Notorious Market List 2020 Highlights e-Commerce Problems

By Bill Toulas / January 20, 2021

The USTR’s (United States Trade Representative) 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy doesn’t contain many surprises when compared to reports from previous years, listing mostly the same websites that we’ve seen again and again. However, this time, and due to the unprecedented online sales volume fueled by the pandemic situation, there was a huge problem with counterfeit goods, which caused significant harm to the American market, the economy, and the consumers.

As the report details, e-commerce has made it quite difficult to detect counterfeit goods. Consumers are falling victims to scammers who sell fake products as genuine more easily since they cannot rely on the “red flag” indicators present on physical exchanges. Scammers can easily create convincing shops that appear perfectly legitimate, using authentic product identifiers, real images, and fabricated contact details. Also, sellers of counterfeit goods are taking advantage of social media platforms, so their operations are further obfuscated.

For the authorities, detecting counterfeit goods on the distribution stage has gotten a lot harder too. Sellers are shipping these items directly to the buyers, so it’s practically impossible to scrutinize all the small packages that “fly” around. As expected, random inspections lead to a small number of seizures, which are not nearly enough to discourage the sellers from continuing their illicit operations.

USTR proposes that e-commerce platforms like Amazon, which is listed in this year’s Notorious Market List, should enhance the vetting of third-party sellers, enhance post-discovery actions, introduce indemnity requirements for foreign sellers, place limitations on high-risk products, perform pre-sale identification of third-party sellers, establish marketplace seller IDs, and share information and transaction details with the U.S. authorities when requested.

As for the websites that are listed this year, the highlighted notorious markets are the following:

U.S. firms, service providers, and advertisers should consider the above websites forbidden from doing business with. The same goes for American allies who are expected to revert from having any link with these sites. Of course, in this context, including Amazon’s European domains is very weird, so we expect to see the tech giant responding to this in the following days.

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