Proposed Law Targets Stolen Goods on eBay, Amazon
Lawmakers reintroduce legislation aimed at slowing the online sale of stolen goods. The bills, targeting organized retail crime, would allow retailers to slap take-down notices on online marketplaces like eBay, Overstock and Amazon.com without so much as a police report indicating the goods for sale are of suspicious origin.It didn't take long for three lawmakers in the 111th Congress to reintroduce legislation that was widely ridiculed in 2008 as an attack by brick-and-mortar retailers on online marketplaces. Ostensibly targeting organized retail crime, the legislation would mean online retail Web sites would be subject to take-down notices if a retailer claims the goods are stolen, and individual sellers over a certain limit would be required to keep records for up to three years.
The three major bills introduced Feb. 25 are the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009, sponsored by Rep. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, and the E-fencing Enforcement Act of 2009, sponsored by Rep. Robert Scott of Virginia.
Together, the bills would mandate online and offline marketplaces to investigate suspicious sales, place disclosure requirements on online marketplaces, impose obligations upon online marketplaces known to be used by high-volume sellers of stolen merchandise and force online marketplaces to collect information that law enforcement can use to prosecute those who fence goods on those Web sites.
"In the midst of the deepening economic crisis, organized retail crime seems to be flourishing," Durbin said in introducing his legislation. "Organized theft affects struggling retailers' bottom lines at a time when they can afford it least and the resale of these stolen goods puts consumers at tremendous risk of buying tainted or outdated products. Our bill takes immediate steps to combat these crimes by making it easier to identify and prosecute offenders and strengthening the penalties for those engaging in such crimes."
"Retailers already struggling to survive are seeing their inventory disappear in increasing amounts, and the goods end up at flea markets or on the Internet at prices that put temptation into the path of cash-strapped consumers trying to stretch every dollar," NRF Vice President for Loss Prevention Joseph LaRocca said in a statement. "Losses from these crimes ultimately drive up the price of legitimate merchandise at a time when consumers can least afford it and do serious damage to our nation's already weakened economy."
The retailers want to force eBay, Amazon.com, Overstock.com and other online retailers to remove items for sale on their sites based only on the word of retailers that the items are stolen. Failure to "expeditiously investigate" the complaint would result in criminal penalties.