The Big 4 Testify
Today in Congress
Amazon - Apple - Alphabet - Facebook
CNBC: Op-Ed: Congress must address organized retail crime at Big Tech hearing
RILA President Pens Op-Ed & Takes Action on
Brian Dodge, Retail Industry Leaders Association
As the nation navigates the new normal, retailers continue to safely serve our
communities across the country. But retailers are confronting an economy that
has undergone major shifts during the course of the pandemic, as consumers
continue to buy items online in record numbers. This dramatic spike in online
shopping makes brick-and-mortar stores even more vulnerable to a problem that
has been growing for over a decade: organized retail crime.
Organized retail crime refers to criminal networks that steal merchandise in
mass quantities from storefronts and sell those goods online. Retailers have
long reported costly problems with organized retail crime, and the Department of
Homeland Security recently
warned that third-party online marketplaces are facilitating the trafficking
of pirated goods. But this year, in the midst of
leading retailers say that these networks are becoming even more aggressive,
which is consistent with
past surges in retail theft during times of economic contractions.
To protect the safety of associates working in retail stores and ensure that
consumers shopping online are not at risk of buying stolen or counterfeit
products, Congress must intervene. And they should focus on eliminating the
ability of criminals to hide behind anonymous selling accounts on online
Critical progress was made last week with the introduction of the Integrity,
Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers (INFORM)
Act by Representative
Jan Schakowsky. Originally introduced in March by
Senators Bill Cassidy and Dick Durbin, the INFORM Consumers Act would
mandate online marketplaces to verify the identity of high-volume third-party
sellers by obtaining their government ID, tax ID, bank account information and
Big Tech marketplaces, including Amazon, remain fiercely opposed to strong
verification and accountability laws that would empower consumers and law
enforcement with information and make it harder for unscrupulous sellers and
criminals to profit from these illicit transactions.
Reports show that
organized retail crime is increasingly pervasive on Amazon. In 2019,
a theft ring was busted in Washington state for selling millions of dollars’
worth of stolen goods on Amazon’s platform over a six-year period. In March,
it was reported that more than two-dozen people had been charged with being
a crime ring that targeted major retail stores from 2014 to 2019 and sold
stolen wares on Amazon.
The dubious claim that scale makes solving this problem too difficult, too
complicated or too burdensome is unfounded. Big Tech marketplace platforms
employ some of the most sophisticated data scientists and logistics
professionals in the world, and it is clear that the knowhow exists to identify
and crack down on these illegitimate sales.
Let’s face the facts. The real reason for turning a blind eye to this problem
undoubtedly lies with the increasing volume of these transactions and the
commissions and fees earned every time a stolen, counterfeit or unsafe item is
sold on one of these platforms.
Big Tech marketplace platforms have their place in an increasingly diverse and
digital economy, connecting legitimate sellers — often small businesses — to a
large and growing pool of online shoppers. But their growth should not be a
golden ticket for criminal rings targeting legitimate businesses and innocent
An important next step and show of good faith would be for Big Tech to join
leading retailers in supporting the INFORM Consumers Act. Lawmakers should seize
the opportunity to ask Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about
his company’s role in solving the organized retail crime problem
when he appears before the House Judiciary Subcommittee this week.
The last few months have been a difficult time for all Americans. For our part,
retailers and their employees have done everything possible to ensure families
have had access to everything they have needed to keep their families secure.
Collectively we have invested billions in training, safety and sanitization
measures to safeguard our employees, customers and the communities that have
counted on us. But this crisis has also underscored problems that require other
industries to step up and do their part. In this case, Big Tech needs to step up
to the plate.
Originally published on