Retailers Want Online Auction Info to Fight Crime
Retail theft rings have done a great deal of damage to retail stores and while many steps have been taken by merchants and law enforcement agencies to combat this crime, many believe Congressional action is required to curtail online fencing of stolen goods through legitimate auction sites, such as eBay and others, according to The Washington Times.
“The internet has created a worldwide market for stolen goods in which the sellers are anonymous and there is an enormous universe of buyers who are generally unaware of the nature of the goods sold,” said Brad Brekke, vice president of assets protection at Target.
Tim Hammonds, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), estimates that retailers lose up to $30 billion a year to organized theft rings. He said consumers who ultimately buy stolen items may face health risks.
“They (retail theft rings) endanger public health by adulterating products such as infant formula and cold medicines and selling them to unsuspecting consumers often through illegitimate retail outlets,” Mr. Hammonds said.
Last week, retailers appearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security painted a picture of increasing criminal activity.
According to FMI’s numbers, 60 percent of retailers report that organized retail theft has become more of a problem this year.
Retailers are looking for Congress to require online auction sites to share information on high-volume sellers to determine if they are engaged in illegal activity. The retailers are also looking for Congress to make organized retail theft a federal felony. Many contend that when thieves that are part of a ring are caught, they receive little more than a slap on the wrist based on local shoplifting laws.
The largest online auctioneer, eBay, defended its practices and sees little reason for Congressional action.
“When any retailer has concrete evidence to the effect that stolen property is on our site, we will work with them and law enforcement to address the problem, including sharing information about a targeted seller with the appropriate enforcement agency,” Robert Chesnut, senior vice president of rules, trust and safety at eBay, told The Washington Times.
Discussion Questions: Is Congressional action needed that would compel online auction sites to reveal information about high-volume sellers? Is there a need to create a felony offense for those involved in organized retail theft? Are there other solutions that you believe would work as well or better than those discussed before the House Judiciary Committee last week?