Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is lobbying hard to remove itself from the U.S. Trade Representative’s blacklist. The company has long been under fire for selling goods suspected of being counterfeit.
While being included on the USTR’s annual list does not carry direct penalties, it also doesn’t help a company’s consumer perception. It could also hurt Alibaba’s already suffering share price.
The USTR placed Alibaba.com and Taobao Marketplace, both owned by the Alibaby Group, on its “Notorious Markets” list in 2008 but remove them in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The USTR has now called for public input as it prepared to create a value system for its next list, expected to debut in the next few months. In that call for public reaction, at least three industry groups criticized Alibaba, alleging widespread counterfeiting on various e-commerce platforms owned by the company.
The company’s new government affairs chief, Eric Pelletier, sent to rebuttal letters to the USTR this month. In his letters, Pelletier says Alibaba has gone above and beyond in dealing with the problem, but that primary responsibility for policing and deterring infringements rests with brand owners.
“When you step back and look at our overall efforts to combat illicit activities, our track record is clear. We are certainly not perfect, and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us…we will continue to do everything we can to stop these activities,” he wrote.
The American Apparel and Footwear Association says Alibaba has had an “unwillingness to make serious reforms.
The Trademark Working Group, which includes some Fortune 500 and other major brands, and ANDEMA, a Spanish anti-counterfeiting association, also criticized Alibaba’s processes for removing suspected listings of fakes.
The fact that Alibaba places the responsibility on brands to find and report fakes hasn’t sat well wiht many smaller brands that do not have the manpower to find and report every single counterfeit good that has been placed on Alibaba’s websites.