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Everything Old is New Again – Big Retailers Going After E-commerce Once More

Here we go again.

Bloomberg News is reporting today that the big retailers and their lobbying machine, the National Retail Federation, are launching another attack on ecommerce and small business entrepreneurs. The NRF, you may recall, is the organization that famously compared anyone who sells things online to drug addicts and criminals.

U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois and representatives Brad Ellsworth (D) of Indiana, Jim Jordan (R) of Ohio and Bobby Scott (D) of Virginia each plan to submit bills today that on the surface are related to the supposed scourge of e-fencing, the selling of stolen goods through the Internet.

We’ve heard this song before, and it’s getting old.

These bills, while ostensibly aimed at organized retail crime, are really about decimating the competition that big retailers face from small businesses that use the Internet to level the playing field. The retailers themselves know that the Internet isn’t the cause of store theft; the NRF’s own 2005 study showed that most retail theft comes from a store’s own employees.   It’s been clear for a long time that many traditional, brick-and-mortar retailers would like to see the online marketplace and its pro-consumer, pro-competition benefits simply disappear.

Unfortunately, the people that these bills would hit the hardest are not the criminals; they are the American consumers who have come to rely on Internet-based small businesses to find good products at great prices, which in this difficult economy, is needed now more than ever.

Nearly identical bills floated in the last Congress died a well-deserved death. We hope that Congress doesn’t fall for the NRF’s anti- competitive scare tactics this time, and will once again try to educate members on what exactly these bills are – and are not.