If you’ve noticed that big brands like Nike and Birkenstock haven’t been available on Amazon lately, there’s a reason for that. For years, brands like those have pursued the massive e-marketplace to crack down on sellers moving counterfeits of their merchandise, and for years, Amazon has said there’s nothing they could do about it. But after a number of major brands have pulled out of selling via the site in recent years, Amazon has changed their tune.

On Tuesday November 24, just a few days before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Amazon announced that they would be teaming up with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, a government watchdog group overseen by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, to prevent counterfeit brand products from reaching consumers through them.

ICE is involved because nearly all of these counterfeit products are made overseas. But, in truth, so are nearly all of the real ones. The real problem is one of oversight and quality control.

Over half (53%) of all items sold on Amazon.com are sold by third-party sellers, rather than by Amazon itself, and even when their products pass through Amazon-controlled distribution centers, there has been little oversight. Third-party sellers made nearly $54 billion in revenue for Amazon in 2019. According to a letter sent from Amazon to a congressional committee in June of this year, as many as 90 percent of all listings on Amazon are from third-party sellers.

In a press release, Amazon said that the joint project is called “Operation Fulfilled Action,” and will involving targeted inspections on arriving goods as they pass through customs, with provisions to actually hold the shippers of those goods accountable.

Amazon also mentioned that in 2019 and 2020, they have spent over half a billion dollars on anti-counterfeit measures, including establishing a Counterfeit Crimes Unit to investigate fake items.

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