Snapdeal hits back at US list of markets selling fake goods; says report based on ‘limited understanding’

The USTR has listed Snapdeal and Amazon’s subsidiaries in India, the UK, Germany, France, and Canada in its annual list of markets selling fake goods. Four offline markets in India including Millennium Centre in Aizawl Heera Panna in Mumbai, Tank Road in Delhi, and Kidderpore in Kolkata have also been in the list.

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Amazon and Snapdeal have refuted the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) 2020 list of the ‘Notorious Markets’ for facilitating the sale of pirated and counterfeit products on their marketplace platforms. The move is likely to bring back focus on the fundamental challenge of fake goods among tonnes of products being retailed on e-commerce portals by lakhs of sellers. “The report is based on a limited understanding of the business models of online marketplaces and ignores the roles and responsibilities of intermediaries under law in various jurisdictions with respect to each of the models. Further, the process of collating such inputs by the office of the USTR is neither objective nor inclusive,” a Snapdeal spokesperson told Financial Express Online.

Amazon, in a prepared statement on its blog, called it to be a “purely political act” and “another example of the administration using the US government to advance a personal vendetta against Amazon.” The USTR along with Amazon India has also listed the Seatlle-headquartered company’s subsidiaries in the UK, Germany, France, and Canada. Four offline markets in India including Millennium Centre in Aizawl Heera Panna in Mumbai, Tank Road in Delhi, and Kidderpore in Kolkata have also been listed.

“You cannot guarantee complete genuineness of products sold anywhere whether it is online or offline. More than marketplaces, the scrutiny has to be on sellers. While online businesses have introduced measures in place but the issue of fakes is likely to be further mitigated with time as e-commerce evolves. Despite such issues, there won’t be any impact on customer confidence as online buying has become integral to the buying behaviour,” an e-commerce expert told Financial Express Online.

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According to a November 2018 LocalCircles survey, one out of every five products customers purchased on e-commerce portals is fake as 19 per cent of more than 53,000 votes from over 27,000 respondents claimed to get a counterfeit product during the six-month period ending October 2018. Snapdeal shipped a higher percentage of fake goods according to 37 per cent votes followed by 22 per cent against Flipkart, 21 per cent against Paytm Mall and 20 per cent votes claimed fakes from Amazon.

Last year Japanese consumer electronics company Casio had reportedly sued Snapdeal and its sellers on its platform for selling counterfeit watches and calculators. There was also a contempt case against its founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal last year for allegedly listing fake Hindustan Unilever products on the portal. Similarly, the US footwear brand Sketchers had filed a case against Flipkart and four sellers on its marketplace in 2017 for allegedly selling fake goods of thee brand. In 2018, the Delhi High Court had asked Amazon to delist sellers from its marketplace selling fake goods of luxury brand Beverly Hills Polo Club after the complaint by the latter.

Snapdeal spokesperson said that the comments made are “factually incorrect in most aspects” and the report also “ignores the extensive and on-going efforts by various marketplaces to collaborate with brands towards the protection of intellectual property on online marketplaces.” Snapdeal’s anti-counterfeit programme – Brand Shield enables “easy reporting and takedown of listings of counterfeits and delisting of defaulting sellers and it has well-defined measures to verify the identity of sellers based on government registrations.” Snapdeal is currently a member of the International Trademark Association.

Amazon on its part claimed that the company invested more than $500 million in 2019 alone “in proactive technologies and processes to detect and stop bad actors and potentially counterfeit products.” The company stressed on its programmes like Project Zero, Transparency, and Brand Registry for brands to partner with them to avoid counterfeits. “More than 99.9 per cent of pages viewed by customers on Amazon have never had a report of counterfeit,” it said.

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