Amazon Files Lawsuit Against Influencers Allegedly Promoting Fakes

TechnologyNov 13, 2020

Amazon Files Lawsuit Against Influencers Allegedly Promoting Fakes

The retail giant is taking legal action against 13 defendants accused of false advertising and selling counterfeit products from Gucci, Dior, and other luxury brands.

The retail giant is cracking down on counterfeit goods, filing a lawsuit against more than a dozen defendants accused of false advertising and selling fake luxury items.

Seattle— Inc is taking legal action against more than a dozen sellers of alleged counterfeit products, including two influencers.

The retail giant filed a lawsuit against 13 individuals and businesses for advertising, promoting, and facilitating the sale of counterfeit luxury goods in Amazon’s store, in violation of its company policies and the law.

Filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, the suit alleges that defendants and influencers Kelly Fitzpatrick and Sabrina Kelly-Krejci worked with sellers to promote counterfeit goods on their Instagram and TikTok accounts and their websites.

They would post side-by-side photos of a generic, non-branded product and a luxury counterfeit product with the message “Order this/Get this.”

A screenshot from Fitzpatrick’s Instagram account (Image courtesy of Amazon’s court filing)
The process worked like a hidden link, explained Fitzpatrick to her followers in a social media post shared in Amazon’s court filing.

“You order a certain product that looks nothing like the designer dupe in order to hide the item from getting taken down [by Amazon] and orders being cancelled.”

To evade anti-counterfeit protections, Amazon said the two would only post the generic item for sale, but then promote the counterfeit items on their social media accounts.

Customers would place an order for this generic product but receive a counterfeit luxury product instead.

Fitzpatrick and Kelly-Krejci also allegedly posted numerous videos describing the high quality of the fake goods, Amazon said.

“These defendants were brazen about promoting counterfeits on social media and undermined the work of legitimate influencers,” said Cristina Posa, associate general counsel and director, Amazon Counterfeit Crimes Unit, in a press release.

Amazon opened its Counterfeit Crimes Unit division in June, assembling a team that specializes in investigating and bringing legal action against bad actors.

Posa said this case demonstrated “the need for cross-industry collaboration in order to drive counterfeiters out of business.”

Amazon is investing resources to stop counterfeit goods from ever getting to the site, Posa said, adding that social media sites also need to monitor accounts that use their services for illegal purposes.

Fitzpatrick was previously a member of the Amazon Influencer Program, which lets members advertise and link to Amazon products in exchange for a percentage of the sales. She was removed when Amazon detected alleged counterfeiting.

She continued to advertise the fake goods, Amazon said, directing followers to her website. Amazon detected similar behavior from Kelly-Krejci.

“[N]ow as most of you know Amazon [sic] has really

cracked down on dupes … now they’re [sic] are barely any [dupes on Amazon],” said Fitzpatrick, as per Amazon’s press release. “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 cancelling our orders.”

DH Gate is a wholesale e-commerce platform based in China.

“Fitzpatrick’s ability to move her counterfeiting from one e-commerce site to another shows how pernicious her activity really is, and how she is only likely to be stopped by way of the requested court order,” said Amazon in a court filing.

Instagram took down her account on July 27, per a court filing, but Fitzpatrick opened a new account on July 31 and allegedly continued to promote counterfeit goods.

When that account was also taken down on Aug. 10, she created a new one the next day and launched her own website.

She also allegedly promoted the sale of counterfeit goods on Etsy.

An investigator retained by Amazon made several test purchases, receiving counterfeit belts, bags, wallets, and sunglasses claiming to be from Gucci, as well as a purse and bracelet from Dior.

Amazon repeated the process with Kelly-Krejci, monitoring her social media accounts and websites as she allegedly promoted counterfeit goods. Test orders were placed for handbags said to be from Gucci and Dior.

Upon receiving counterfeit products, the accounts that sent the merchandise were shut down.

The influencers’ current websites and social media accounts appear to have been taken down as of Friday morning.

Amazon said it “strictly prohibits counterfeit products in its stores, and in 2019 alone, invested more than $500 million to protect customers and brands from fraud, abuse, and counterfeit.”

The company is seeking an injunction against Fitzpatrick, Kelly-Krejci and the connected parties as well as profits from counterfeit Amazon sales and attorneys’ fees and costs in filing the lawsuit. The total amount was undisclosed.

Amazon has filed several lawsuits against counterfeiters, including a joint lawsuit with Italian luxury fashion brand Valentino, cosmetics retailer KF Beauty, and JL Childress, a seller of travel products for parents.
Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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