As the pandemic passes the eight-month mark and continues into the holiday season, we’re seeing a significant uptick in online shopping, with more and more businesses transitioning to e-commerce. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that in Q2 there was a 31.9 percent increase in e-commerce from Q1 and a 44.5 percent increase from last year’s Q2. And, with such an increase in online shopping comes an increase in potential threats for online counterfeit goods. Internet Association (IA) hosted a panel on November 12 highlighting how online marketplaces are preserving community trust by redoubling their already significant efforts to proactively protect consumers from counterfeit goods. IA’s Senior Vice President of Global Communications and Public Affairs Christina Martin moderated the panel of industry experts including:
Senior Manager, Public Policy at Amazon
Senior Manager, Federal Government Relations at eBay
Head of U.S. Government Relations at Etsy
Director, Public Policy at Facebook
Online platforms have always committed to ensuring a safe and enjoyable shopping and selling experience and now these efforts are more important than ever as the pandemic continues boosting online sales as an alternative to in-person shopping. All four panelists agreed that building and maintaining trust in their platforms is paramount and they employ a variety of techniques and tools to achieve that goal, given their different business models.
Yet despite the different business models represented on the panel, all four industry experts found common ground in prioritizing proactive partnerships with other stakeholders and emphasizing consumer and seller education on intellectual property (IP) infringement.
How are online marketplaces proactively partnering with stakeholders?
All of the panelists agreed that sharing information and collaborating with stakeholders – government agencies and others – is integral in maintaining a trustworthy online marketplace. Robert Diznoff, Senior Manager in Public Policy at Amazon, emphasized that “to successfully stop bad actors from infiltrating the global supply chain, you have to have collaboration from all stakeholders: retailers, marketplace providers, rights holders, government agencies, and law enforcement. And Amazon voluntarily partners with all these groups.” Diznoff later noted, as one example of Amazon’s partnerships, that the company proactively shares its quarterly reports with law enforcement, including the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, Homeland Security, and other government agencies that track infringement trends to help identify trends and hold bad actors looking to sell counterfeit goods accountable.
Matthew Jensen, Senior Manager in Federal Government Relations at eBay, agreed and noted that for eBay, “[brand partnership] is a key component to our counterfeit measures… we rely heavily on the owners of the IP of those products to teach, to educate, to help us identify bad actors.” Jensen highlighted eBay’s Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) Program, which partners closely with owners of IP rights to report listings that infringe on those rights directly to eBay. Partnerships with a diverse set of stakeholders are crucial in keeping a reputation built on trust, especially during the pandemic, when online selling and shopping are necessities for businesses and individuals alike.
How are online marketplaces proactively educating their communities about IP infringement?
All the panelists also emphasized that another fundamental way to build trust in online marketplaces is by educating on what is and is not IP infringement. Educating seller and buyer communities online is vital for e-commerce companies to build trust. Jeffery Zubricki, Head of U.S. Government Relations at Etsy, pointed out one of the company’s most important proactive efforts is education, saying “we really want to work with our trust and safety teams to help educate sellers in terms of what are the appropriate ways to sell or not sell certain items in their stores.” Specifically, over 90 percent of Etsy’s sellers are at-home shops who may not fully understand the intricacies of IP laws. That makes it especially important to proactively educate and be as transparent as possible to build community trust.
Probir Mehta, Director, Public Policy at Facebook, agreed with Zubricki and added, “we also invest in IP education because that’s really important. Customers often don’t know that something might be infringing. We want to provide in-app notifications, emails, etc. to help them get educated about IP infringement.” Facebook and the other companies represented on the panel all agreed that transparency reports for government agencies are important, but transparency with the community of creators, buyers, and sellers is imperative.
The pandemic has caused a massive shift to online shopping. But online marketplaces of all models are proactively working to ensure a safe experience. Trust is the core of all online marketplaces and all four industry experts on the panel agreed that forming collaborative partnerships with a variety of stakeholders and providing expansive education on internal policies and IP laws are just a few of the ways online marketplaces continue building and maintaining trust.