Amazon Lawsuits: Luxury Counterfeiters Wielded Social to Peddle Fakes

Amazon has filed lawsuits against more than a dozen alleged luxury counterfeit operators, the company said Thursday. And the cases cast social media as a powerful weapon in the fakers’ arsenal.

According to an Amazon statement, the suits — filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington — target 13 individuals and businesses for “advertising, promoting and facilitating the sale of counterfeit luxury goods in Amazon’s e-commerce platform, in violation of Amazon’s policies and the law.”

The defendants stand accused of “working in concert with each other” to peddle the phony goods to followers on social media networks.

Cristina Posa, associate general counsel and director of Amazon Counterfeit Crimes Unit, described the actions as “brazen” and said they undercut the work of legitimate influencers.

The announcement singled out two people, Kelly Fitzpatrick and Sabrina Kelly-Krejci, for conspiring to skirt the retail platform’s anti-counterfeit measures by promoting the fakes on Instagram and TikTok.

Amazon detailed the accusation: “Fitzpatrick and Kelly-Krejci posted side-by-side photos of a generic, non-branded product and a luxury counterfeit product with the text, ‘Order this/Get this.’ ’Order this’ referred to the generic product falsely advertised on Amazon, and ‘Get this’ referred to the counterfeit luxury product.”

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“By posting only generic products on Amazon, Fitzpatrick and Kelly-Krejci — and the sellers they coordinated with — attempted to evade our anti-counterfeit protections while using social media to promote the true nature of these counterfeit products,” the company said, adding that the defendants also made dubious claims about the high quality of their fakes.

Fitzpatrick, once a member of Amazon’s influencer program, was kicked off when the company became aware of the behavior. But that apparently didn’t stop her, as she purportedly continued to advertise counterfeits on social media and direct people to her own site. Amazon believes Kelly-Krejci did the same thing, and it contends that both began directing followers to other e-commerce sites as well.

Amazon offered messaging that ostensibly came from Fitzgerald: “Now as most of you know, amazon [sic] has really cracked down on dupes…now they’re [sic] are barely any [dupes on Amazon]. Our very trusted seller of the last year has moved to DH Gate…I know it’s a big change to switch from Amazon to DH Gate, but this guarantees that the links do not get reported and shut down sometimes canceling our orders.”

The tech giant didn’t reveal where the comments were made.

Last year, Amazon invested more than $500 million to fight fraud, abuse and copycat products. The work involved as many as 8,000 employees and included robust seller vetting, advanced machine learning-based technologies and brand protection tools like Project Zero, Brand Registry and Transparency.

The company escalated its efforts by launching a dedicated Counterfeit Crimes Unit in June. Now it claims that there have been no valid counterfeit complaints lodged for 99.9 percent of the products Amazon customers see in the marketplace.

Even so, Posa suggested that go-it-alone efforts have limitations.

Multiplatform tactics highlight the need for greater cooperation among different companies “to drive counterfeiters out of business,” she said. “Amazon continues to invest tremendous resources to stop bad actors before they enter our store and social media sites must similarly vet, monitor, and take action on bad actors that are using their services to facilitate illegal behavior.”

Amazon has filed several suits against counterfeiters, including a joint lawsuit with Valentino, KF Beauty and travel products brand JL Childress.

The latest lawsuit comes as Amazon is stepping up its efforts to attract luxury and fashion brands to its platform with the launch of Amazon Luxury Stores, which so far has attracted the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Roland Mouret and Car Shoe, among others. Luxury brands in the past have been reluctant to sell to Amazon, pointing to previous counterfeits being sold on the site.

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