The Hustle

Amazon’s new task force is dedicated to busting counterfeits

A group of prosecutors and analysts are trying to solve the tech giant’s biggest headache.

June 26, 2020

Amazon’s newest division is called the Counterfeit Crimes Unit — and no, sadly, it is not the CSI: Cyber reboot that I and 10 other people have been waiting on.

You can think of the Counterfeit Crimes Unit as Amazon’s knockoff Justice League: A group of prosecutors, investigators, and data analysts are teaming up to root out and sue the fakers.

It couldn’t have come fast enough. Amazon has an Everything-Store-sized counterfeit problem, and major brands like Nike and Birkenstock have left the site in protest.

Goods on Amazon are a black box 

The Wall Street Journal found that “thousands” of banned or unsafe products have been selling on the site. Some, like knockoff car seats, are especially dangerous.

The problem? It’s hard to oversee all of Amazon’s third-party sellers. In the 2nd quarter of 2019, they made up 54% of all sales.

Our Caroline Dohack dealt with Amazon fakes firsthand. Last year, she bought a Batman figurine for cheap. It turned out to be a phony, even though it was labeled as an authentic Mattel product.

Counterfeits are a PR problem  

Last year, The New Yorker reported that Birkenstock has received an onslaught of refund requests from people who bought Birkenstock knockoffs.

There’s nothing Birkenstock can do for them, but it’s a delicate situation. If those frustrated customers blame Birkenstock, not the counterfeiters, the company says its reputation is at stake.

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