The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) is currently calling for well-known social media networks based in the USA to be included on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) so-called Notorious Markets List. Among others, AAFA is nominating Facebook and Instagram for this blacklist.
The AAFA explains its request with the high volume of counterfeits on offer on social media sites and their lack in brand protection. The reasoning behind demanding to include social networks in addition to the usual online marketplaces is that the line between online commerce and social media is blurring, according to AAFA – a trend that is illustrated by buzzwords such as social commerce or social selling. Moreover, a recent study is said to show that fraudulent advertising and counterfeits are on the rise on sites such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as on YouTube and Google. “With the rise in purchasing online through social media channels, which has exploded during the pandemic, our members have also witnessed a flood of counterfeits and fraudulent advertising on many of these platforms as well”, says the AAFA.
Often, the networks of the Facebook group are particularly in focus: the association relates from one member, for example, that 90 to 99 percent of its measures against trademark infringing social media content are carried out on Facebook and Instagram. Another member reported that in 2020 alone, it has identified more than 3,700 Facebook profiles violating trademark rights; of these, more than 3,500 were selling counterfeits. On Instagram, one brand discovered around 19,000 URLs with content allegedly violating intellectual property rights. Another association member reported that in the first three quarters of 2020 alone, it had three times as many posts and ads removed from Instagram than in the whole of 2019.
Next to that, counterfeiters are presumably also using WhatsApp for illegal sales, also part of the Facebook group. For example, AAFA members report that WhatsApp numbers are often given in illegal listings to process the transactions. This year alone, one member reported to have identified over 250 WhatsApp numbers linked to Instagram accounts that were used in selling counterfeit products. To have such WhatsApp accounts deactivated is often difficult for affected companies, according to the AAFA.
In addition to social media networks, the AAFA again nominated the online retailer Amazon, as the number of counterfeits on the online marketplace remains high. Moreover, its members are not convinced that Amazon is taking sufficient measures to monitor traders. In particular, they criticize that known counterfeit vendors can resume selling on the platform after being blocked – and in some cases even offer the same products again.
The Notorious Markets list is published annually by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and identifies retailers with counterfeiting issues.