Did we say “competition” and not “crime”? Oops. Freudian slip.
After all, the recently introduced so-called “Online Retail Crime Act” is being pushed by big box retailers as yet another way to take a swipe at their online marketplace competitors in the name of fighting crime. Of course, the bill doesn’t take on the biggest cause of retail crime: employee theft.
Now that the retailers got their pet bill introduced, they are spending many dollars on a big PR push in support of the legislation. But, don’t you just hate it when you try to get a favorable story, but it then gets muddled by the truth?
This happened yesterday on the popular public radio Marketplace show. NetChoice executive director Steve DelBianco was one of those interviewed to discuss the legislation. So was an eBay attorney Here’s an excerpt:
The National Retail Federation says businesses lose more than $30 billion a year to theft. It estimates up to half the take ends up on the Internet and retailers are pushing for regulation.
Bring that up with Steve DelBianco and you can almost hear his eyes rolling. DelBianco is Executive Director of NetChoice, a coalition of tech companies and online consumers. He says attempts to regulate e-commerce are meant to scare consumers into thinking online bargains are shady. Just because something’s cheap, it doesn’t mean it’s stolen.
Steve DelBianco: It’s really about competition prevention. It’s an organized effort by big box retailers, I think, to squash competition from other angles.
Legislation before Congress would make sites like eBay liable for selling stolen items. That may be a tough sell. Earlier this summer, a federal court ruled against Tiffany & Co. and found eBay is not responsible for tracking counterfeits on the site. A judge said when Tiffany identifies fakes, eBay responds quickly.
eBay attorney Edward Torporco says the same is true for stolen goods.
Edward Torporco: eBay already has an unmatched record of proactively working with law enforcement to prosecute individuals that engage in illegal conduct on the site.
But, to be fair, let’s give the NRF’s head of loss prevention the last word…
…the Retail Federation’s Joseph LaRocca admits it’s hard to tell whether I’m looking at something stolen.
LaRocca: There are legitimate reasons why someone might be selling a case of iPods.
Yet, these legitimate reasons won’t stop the NRF and big box retailers from using regulation to go after individuals and small businesses selling iPods and other items online. They figure that when you have lobbying influence at your disposal and can be cast as crime fighters, why stop at beating back Mom & Pop operations in physical world?