CEOs Call on Congress to Help Fight Anonymous Online Retail Crime

  • Several executives of large retailers have sent a letter to Congress asking to tackle organized retail crime.
  • Criminal retail networks cost companies like Target and Home Depot billions in the last year, the FBI said.
  • The letter cites the “lack of transparency” in third-party markets as enabling activity.

The leaders of the

retail business

Are fed up with the effect of organized retail crime on their businesses, and they are calling on Congress to take action.

Twenty CEOs of large retailers on Thursday sent a letter to congressional leaders asking lawmakers to pass legislation to help curb the illegal business activities of anonymous online sellers.

Retailers say they have seen an increase in organized criminal activity in recent months, including through brazen break-ins, with many stolen products being resold in online marketplaces. The retail industry has lost billions over the past year to the resale of these “hot” items, according to the FBI and a 2020 National Retail Federation investigation.

Signatories include the CEOs of Target, CVS Health, Rite Aid, Home Depot, Dollar General, AutoZone, Kroger, Petco, Ulta Beauty, Nordstrom and Best Buy, as well as the president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

In the letter, business leaders point to “the anonymity of the Internet” and “the failure of certain marketplaces” to verify their sellers as the causes of criminal retail practices.

“In today’s environment, criminal networks and unscrupulous businesses have exploited a system that protects their anonymity to sell dangerous, stolen or counterfeit products with little legal recourse,” the letter said. “This lack of transparency in particular third-party markets has allowed criminal activity to escalate.”

CEOs want Congress to support a bipartisan bill that would require online marketplaces to authenticate high-volume third-party sellers.

The bill, titled Integrity Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act, or INFORM Consumers Act, would make it harder for bad sellers to hide behind fake screen names and false business information when closing. illicit products, according to the letter.

But some groups, like the Makers and Merchants Coalition, a trade group representing third-party online sellers, have spoken out against the INFORM Consumer Law, saying it helps eliminate competition with big box retailers, said a coalition spokesperson at Insider.

Retail leaders do not explicitly name third-party marketplaces in the letter, but several ecommerce sites have rebuffed claims that they are not doing enough to monitor illegal activity on their platforms.

Amazon introduced a live video and physical address verification method last year, allowing the company to verify the identity of sellers with their government-issued IDs, the company told Insider. The company also said it voted in favor of the INFORM consumer law in October.

“Amazon does not allow third-party sellers to list goods stolen from our store, and we work closely with law enforcement, retailers, and brands to arrest bad actors and hold them accountable, including withholding funds, terminating accounts and making referrals to law enforcement, ”an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to Insider. “We regularly ask for invoices, purchase orders or other proof of supply when we have concerns about how a seller may have obtained particular products they wish to sell.”

Facebook Marketplace prohibits the sale of stolen items in accordance with its business policies. The platform responds to valid legal requests and may also share information with law enforcement, in accordance with its terms, and regulators in cases where it could prevent fraud or other types of illegal activity, a Meta spokesperson told Insider.

Insider has also reached out to eBay for comment, but the e-commerce platform has yet to respond.

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Anne G. Cash