The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) praised today’s release of the 2021 Review of Notorious Markets by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
Unsafe counterfeits lurk everywhere we turn, including a number of trusted, and emerging, e-commerce platforms. Year over year, we are pleased that USTR — and other U.S. government agencies involved in the preparation of this report — raise red flags about the venues where counterfeits are flourishing internationally and online,” said AAFA President and CEO Steve Lamar.
While USTR listed many key notorious markets recommended by AAFA, the report missed the opportunity to hold certain major platforms accountable where the sale, and promotion, of counterfeits continues to proliferate and target unknowing American consumers.
Over the past two years, Americans have poured extra confidence into e-commerce ordering from home, to conserve time and protect themselves from possible COVID-19 exposures. In fact, online shopping is up 42 percent since 2020. While AAFA members go to great lengths to ensure the safety and quality of products wherever they are sold, counterfeiters do just the opposite —they make the most goods at the cheapest price, to return the highest profit possible without regard to consumer safety or consequence.
Beyond the damage to American businesses, counterfeits put American consumers at risk by exposing them to products that may not follow product safety regulations and standards. In fact, a new AAFA study conducted this winter, tested a variety of counterfeit clothes, shoes, and accessories; the testing report found that over a third of the counterfeit products tested contained hazardous chemicals or heavy metals that would not pass inspection for sale in the U.S.
AAFA is dedicated to defending American intellectual property, American jobs, consumers, and workers around the globe. The annual review of Notorious Markets by the Office of the United States Trade Representative is a critical and effective tool in the U.S. government's toolkit to address the sale of counterfeits. This is why AAFA is also calling on Congress to pass both the bicameral, bipartisan SHOP SAFE Act and INFORM Consumers Act, both of which are part of the House America COMPETES Act.”
The Notorious Markets list identifies physical and online marketplaces that engage in and facilitate substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting. AAFA’s October 2021 submission cites growing concerns of counterfeit products entering the U.S. through domestic third-party online marketplaces. This issue was further outlined in AAFA’s report “Dupe Influencers: The Concerning Trend of Promoting Counterfeit Apparel, Footwear, and Accessories on Social Media” and joint AAFA-TRACIT fraudulent advertising report.
In the 2021 report, USTR urges e-commerce platforms to “take proactive and effective steps to reduce piracy and counterfeiting ... by establishing and adhering to strong quality control procedures in both direct-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer sales, vetting third-party sellers, engaging with right holders to quickly address complaints, and working with law enforcement to identify IP violators.”
In addition to USTR’s call to action, AAFA supports two complementary bills in front of Congress to combat counterfeits - The SHOP SAFE Act and the INFORM Consumers Act. The combined bills require e-commerce platforms to vet sellers and provide seller information to protect consumers from counterfeit products or be held liable if counterfeit products sold on their platforms harm the health and safety of consumers. Both bills are bicameral, bipartisan, and have generated a wide range of support.
AAFA’s full 2021 submission on Notorious Markets is available here.