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Any retailer is only as good as the products it sells, and online retailers are no different. No marketplace wants to be known for allowing counterfeit goods, especially one as big as Amazon. So it's somewhat surprising that the two lawsuits filed by Amazon this week are its first against merchants for allegedly selling counterfeit items in the company's 20-year history.
Here's a look at the lawsuits and what they could mean for e-commerce and counterfeiters in the future.
One of the counterfeit lawsuits involves forged Forearm Forklifts (a fabric strap work to more easily lift heavy objects) and was filed against ToysNet and Disk Vision. Amazon claims it flagged ToysNet in June for selling fake items, but that Disk Vision forged invoices to prove the products were legit in order to get them reinstated.
The other lawsuit was also over fabric straps, this one filed against Joana Ferreira for allegedly selling copies of TRX's popular Suspension Trainers exercise strap. Amazon partnered with TRX developer Fitness Anywhere to block sales of the rip-offs.
The new flurry of litigation follows months of increased scrutiny on Amazon's online marketplace. Around the same time Amazon was flagging ToysNet as a fraud, CNBC was reporting on the increased presence of counterfeit products from Chinese sellers. And Apple sued counterfeiters after finding as many as 90% of "Apple"-branded power chargers and adapters for sale on Amazon were fakes.
"When customers purchase counterfeit goods, it undermines the trust that customers, sellers, and manufacturers place in Amazon," the company's lawsuit says, "thereby tarnishing Amazon's brand and causing irreparable reputational harm."
Amazon is hoping to minimize that reputational harm as much as possible before the holiday buying season begins. "Amazon's customers trust that when they make a purchase through Amazon's website -- either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers -- they will receive authentic products manufactured by the true manufacturer of those products."
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