A coalition of major retailers called on Congress Thursday to implement stricter legislation to increase transparency on e-commerce platforms in a bid to deter criminals from being able to easily resell stolen goods online.
The chief executives of Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Foot Locker, Kroger, Nordstrom, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Dollar General, and The Home Depot were among a group of 21 signatories to a letter (pdf) sent by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).
The letter, addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), urged them to implement the bipartisan and bicameral Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces (INFORM) for Consumers Act in light of the growing impact of organized retail crime.
“The INFORM Consumers Act is a simple, bipartisan measure that will increase transparency online for all marketplaces, making it easier for consumers to identify exactly who they are buying from, and make it harder for criminal elements to hide behind fake screennames and false business information to fence illicit products while evading law enforcement,” said the letter.
There has been a significant uptick in smash-and-grab type crimes and organized looting that have affected many retailers. Recent incidents in certain parts of California, Chicago and elsewhere have resulted in outlets shutting down due to increased criminal activities in the neighborhood.
While retailers face the financial impacts of brazen robberies, employees are threatened with violence as criminals often carry weapons like guns or crowbars. “This is traumatizing for our associates and is unacceptable,” Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said on an investor call last month. “We are doing everything we can to try to create [an] as-safe-as-possible environment.”
The letter said that there was no accountability when lawbreakers loot stores and then resell the merchandise online. Criminal networks have “exploited a system that protects their anonymity to sell unsafe, stolen, or counterfeit products with little legal recourse.”
Marketplaces that support these types of sellers without any obligations have “allowed criminal activity to fester.”
The executives ended the letter by asking Congress to implement the Act and ensure “basic transparency and verification protocols” and “finally expose criminals” selling stolen and fake products.
According to the National Retail Federation, 69 percent of retailers have reported a spike in organized retail crime this year. The main reasons given were softer sentencing guidelines, COVID-19 related issues, and the growth of unregulated online marketplaces.