Amazon is putting its counterfeit problem in brands' hands by letting them delete knock-offs

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, founder of space venture Blue Origin and owner of The Washington Post, participates in an event hosted by the Air Force Association September 19, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, founder of space venture Blue Origin and owner of The Washington Post, participates in an event hosted by the Air Force Association September 19, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Amazon is taking a new approach to its counterfeit problem by putting brands in control of expunging knock-off products on its site. The company announced Thursday a new program called Project Zero that will let brands delete fake listings themselves.

Like other tech platforms, Amazon has long struggled with how to deal with false or misleading information on its site. But when users post fake products on Amazon, they can have lasting impacts on the brands they are trying to knock-off, like pressuring to lower their prices to compete with the fake versions of themselves.

Removing fakes has proved complicated for Amazon, however, and sometimes the system backfires. One real store on Amazon’s marketplace was suspended shortly before Amazon’s 2017 Prime Day because of a fake claim of intellectual property violation by a nonexistent law firm, CNBC reported that year.

Now, Amazon hopes to boost its efforts to eliminate counterfeits by putting the power directly in the hands of brands that it invites to the program. Through Project Zero, Amazon will combine self-service counterfeit removal for brands with automated scans of logos and trademarks on its website and unique codes on physical items that will help confirm authenticity. Brands who join the program will be able to delete a listing it deems fake without reporting it to Amazon first to ensure it is removed more quickly. Amazon said this information will be used to strengthen its own automated processes, in turn.

“Our aim is that customers always receive authentic goods when shopping on Amazon,” Amazon’s vice president of worldwide customer trust and partner support Dharmesh Mehta said in a statement. “Project Zero builds on our long-standing work and investments in this area. It allows brands to work with us to leverage our combined strengths to move quickly and at scale to drive counterfeits to zero.”

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