Amazon must do more to combat counterfeit sales

Amazon has witnessed phenomenal growth and is widely recognised for becoming a front leader in innovation, boosting its R&D on exciting technological advancements, such as in drones and robotics.


Amazon has witnessed phenomenal growth and is widely recognised for becoming a front leader in innovation, boosting its R&D on exciting technological advancements, such as in drones and robotics. However, in the midst of all this success, the company has been incredibly ineffective in tackling the ever increasing problem of counterfeit products being sold on both its US and global sites, including the UK.

The issue of counterfeiting has entered the media spotlight recently, as lawsuits targeting sellers by retailers have intensified. Just a few months ago, at the end of October 2016, Apple filed a lawsuit against Amazon.com supplier Mobile Star LLC for alleged trademark infringement. Apple purchased over 100 iPhone devices over a nine-month period, including chargers and lightening cables listed as genuine by other Amazon.com suppliers. Apple’s internal testing revealed that almost 90% of products on Amazon were counterfeit, warning consumers that these products are potentially hazardous as they could cause fires or electric shocks due to inadequate electrical insulation.

Pearson Education, Cengage Learning and McGraw Hill Education are currently suing over 100 unnamed Amazon marketplace sellers for copyright infringement.

Unfortunately for Amazon, the counterfeit problem also spans outside electricals, with three of the world’s largest textbook publishers summoning Amazon to reveal the names and financial accounts of online vendors this month. Pearson Education, Cengage Learning and McGraw Hill Education are currently suing over 100 unnamed Amazon marketplace sellers for copyright infringement.

Embarrassingly for the e-commerce giant, a common theme in the aforementioned cases, is that fake products appear legitimate under the Fulfilment by Amazon programme, which lets sellers send their (fake) goods to Amazon’s warehouses, which are then shipped by the e-retailer themselves via Free Super Saver shipping or Amazon Prime. 

A problem made in China?

The proliferation of counterfeit products via Amazon’s fulfilment programme can be attributed to the retailer’s ever growing relationship with sellers from China in order to facilitate their own growth and market share. According to the OECD, over 60% of the world’s counterfeit products originate from China. The e-commerce giant registered with the Federal Maritime Commission in 2015 to streamline the shipping process, cutting out the import/export middlemen. This move clearly benefited counterfeiters as they were able to widen their global reach not just to the US but the European market too. This makes Amazon the clear cross-border e-commerce choice for Chinese sellers, and therefore makes the retailer a risky choice for consumers purchasing products which they perceive as genuine.

The widespread sale of counterfeit products poses serious implications for the e-retailer’s future performance not just within the US but across the globe, including the UK. Amazon risks breaking its strong bond with consumers, as their trust and loyalty will decline if the e-commerce giant does not implement a robust strategy to combat counterfeiters.

Additionally, Amazon further risks losing out to large retailers selling their genuine products on its marketplace. On its US store, companies such as the NFL, Johnson & Johnson and Birkenstock have already pulled their products entirely citing their frustrations at Amazon’s inability to stamp out counterfeiters. Retailers within the UK may also follow suit if Amazon continues to neglect this issue.