Amazon's e-commerce bill bind

Amazon must decide whether to go it alone in the fight against a bill meant to deter online sales of counterfeit and stolen goods, after its e-commerce peers Etsy and eBay threw their support behind updated House legislation set for a Thursday hearing.

Between the lines: The fierce and unanimous opposition from online marketplaces has splintered, potentially easing the path forward for the latest legislation.


Driving the news: A House Energy & Commerce subcommittee will consider the online retail bill, known as the INFORM Act, Thursday.

  • The bipartisan INFORM Act, from subcommittee chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and ranking member Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), would require online marketplaces to collect and verify identification information of vendors who have made at least 200 sales in a year that together are worth $5,000 or more.
  • The bill also requires platforms provide customers with a way to contact sellers who have more than $20,000 in annual gross revenue after buying from them.
  • Requiring such information and disclosure, lawmakers say, will discourage criminals from using the platforms to sell counterfeit and stolen goods — a problem that ballooned as e-commerce swelled during the pandemic.

Flashback: Earlier this year, senators tried to hitch their version of the INFORM Act to the China-focused competition bill, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, but that effort failed amid intense lobbying by Amazon and others.

  • “The privacy and safety concerns were very important for our members, that’s why we fought for a little more protection around those issues, and we got them," said Chris Lamond, who runs the Coalition to Protect America’s Small Sellers, which counts eBay, Etsy and Poshmark among its members. "That’s a major change from the Senate version.”

The intrigue: Lawmakers who are eyeing including the measure in the House version of the competition bill negotiated with the smaller platforms to gain their support.

  • Etsy said the House version does a better job of protecting the privacy of its sellers, many of whom sell out of their homes, in how it requires the disclosure of their information.
  • "It strikes that right balance between best practices in vetting and thoughtful disclosure without being privacy invasive," Etsy head of U.S. government relations Jeffrey Zubricki told Axios.
  • eBay said changes to the verification requirements also helped garner the company's support, as did increasing the threshold for when platforms must provide customers a means of contacting sellers.
  • The House bill also would preempt similar legislation that has popped up in statehouses across the country.

The big picture: The legislation was also praised by Consumer Reports, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Buy Safe America Coalition, which represents Home Depot, Walgreens and other major retailers.

Yes, but: Amazon, which staunchly opposed the Senate version, declined comment on the House version.

  • The Makers and Merchants Coalition — funded by the Internet Association, a trade association that represents Amazon — said it is reviewing the latest bill.
  • "Legislation like this was never designed to prevent fraud and abuse, it was written to benefit large brick-and-mortar retailers at the expense of small online sellers," Katie Wright, spokesperson for the Makers and Merchants Coalition, said in a statement. "Big Retail and Buy Safe continue to push legislation at the state and federal level with varying provisions that have the potential to harm honest sellers."
  • "While some marketplaces may have warmed to the House bill, small sellers come in different shapes and sizes, and we are reviewing the latest iteration with an eye toward holding harmless all honest sellers." 

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