The Retail Industry Leaders Association, representing dozens of national retailers including Walmart, Home Depot, Walgreens and Target, is calling on Congress to step in to stop online outlets from selling items stolen from their stores.
''Leading retailers are concerned about the growing impact organized retail crime is having on the communities we proudly serve, which is why we strongly support the bipartisan and bicameral Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces (INFORM) for Consumers Act,'' the group said in a Dec. 9 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other congressional leaders.
''This important legislation will modernize our consumer protection laws to safeguard families and communities from the sale of illicit products and we urge its quick passage.''
The bill, introduced in the Senate in March, would make third-party online sellers authenticate the merchandise they offer on platforms such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy to help combat stolen and counterfeit items from being moved online.
The problem has become increasingly bad in the last few years, as groups of criminals storm shops across the country, stealing items that are later sold online by the perpetrators, according to a report from Fox 46 in Charlotte, North Carolina, in February.
The groups are ''brazen,'' Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Detective Thomas Kendziora told the news outlet. ''They're bold and they just go in and take the items.''
After getting away with the goods, the thieves then sell them online at a discount, turning the unsuspecting buyer into someone who receives stolen property.
Home Depot spokesperson Christina Cornell told Fox 46 that if you see a really good deal on a new item online, it is likely stolen.
''There's a good chance that it's stolen,'' she said. ''They're trying to resell these items very quickly for cash.''
''As millions of Americans have undoubtedly seen on the news in recent weeks and months, retail establishments of all kinds have seen a significant uptick in organized crime in communities across the nation,'' the association's letter to Congress said.
''While we constantly invest in people, policies, and innovative technology to deter theft, criminals are capitalizing on the anonymity of the Internet and the failure of certain marketplaces to verify their sellers.
''This trend has made retail businesses a target for increasing theft, hurt legitimate businesses who are forced to compete against unscrupulous sellers, and has greatly increased consumer exposure to unsafe and dangerous counterfeit products.''
The Minnesota Star Tribune reported last month that thieves hit two Best Buy stores in Burnsville and Maplewood, Minnesota, on Black Friday, which is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.
According to the report, both stores were hit around 8 p.m. Nov. 26, with about 20 to 30 people looting the Burnsville store and one to 12 others hitting the Maplewood store.
''Retailers across the country are seeing spikes in crime,'' a Best Buy spokesman said in a statement to the newspaper Nov. 28. ''These incidents have been, by and large, nonviolent though often traumatic for those who witnessed them. As an industry, we are working with local law enforcement and taking additional security precautions where it makes sense.''
No injuries or arrests were reported.
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