E-commerce platform Snapdeal on Saturday refuted a United States Trade Representative report that that placed it on a list of notorious markets, describing it as factually incorrect.

“The comments made with regard to Snapdeal are factually incorrect and repeat the falsehoods contained in the 2019 report, which Snapdeal had strongly rebutted,” a company spokesperson told Scroll.in. “The lack of diligence is evident in including reference to related sites that have ceased to operate four years ago.”

Snapdeal and four Indian shopping complexes had figured in the “2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy” issued by the Office of the US Trade Representative.

Snapdeal said that the report reflects a poor understanding of the governing laws in various jurisdictions, including in India. It pointed out that courts in India had upheld the distinction between marketplaces and sellers but the US Trade Representative office wilfully blurred this distinction.

The company said that it has taken various anti-counterfeiting measures, which the report has ignored. The measures include a reporting and takedown process that has been active for more than two years, it said. “This has led to close and effective collaboration with leading national & international brands, building on which Snapdeal has formed alliances with various brands to provide additional protection for brands with registered trademarks,” the spokesperson said.

The e-commerce platform said that there have been no criminal accusations against the founders of the company for selling counterfeit products. “Such negligent statements and unverified reporting by USTR is defamatory and unacceptable,” it said. “The process of collating inputs by USTR continues to be outdated, opaque and based on unverified inputs.”

The US Trade Representative report said that Snapdeal remains a concern as customers have reported an increase in the volume of counterfeit products. “According to a November 2018 survey, 37% of purchasers reported that they had received a counterfeit product from Snapdeal,” it said, claiming that the founders of the company were accused of criminal conduct in India for selling counterfeit products in 2019.

Companies such as Amazon, Shopee, Mercado Libre, Pinduoduo, Taobao and Tokopedia also figured in the list.

Other Indian markets

The USTR report also mentioned Heera Panna in Mumbai, Kidderpore in Kolkata and Palika Bazaar and Tank Road in Delhi. While three of these places were mentioned in last year’s review as well, Palika Bazaar replaced Aizawl’s Millennium Center this time, according to PTI.

The report said that all the four Indian markets sell counterfeit products, including footwear, apparel, accessories, and cosmetics. “Many shoppers are reportedly students and other young people who want trendy products at cheap prices,” the report said about Palika Bazaar. “The market is also a popular destination for tourists.”

It said that Kidderpore Market in Kolkata, also known as Fancy Market, sells pirated software and media, besides apparel and cosmetics, often in wholesale quantities.

“Right holders report that this market continues to sell counterfeit products, including apparel and footwear,” it said about the Tank Market in Delhi. “Wholesale counterfeit goods are also reportedly supplied from this market to other Indian markets, including Gaffar Market and Ajmal Khan Road [both in Delhi].” The report, citing right holders, said that conducting enforcement actions at this location is expensive and challenging and that sellers usually have advanced knowledge of raids.

In a press release, the Office of US Trade Representative said that this year’s report for the first time has a section to address the role of internet platforms in assisting the importation of counterfeit and pirated goods into America.

“Holding intellectual property rights violators accountable and ensuring that American innovators and creators have a full and fair opportunity to use and profit from their work is critical for both physical and online markets,” said US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

In addition to addressing the role of e-commerce companies, the report also identifies 39 online markets and 34 physical markets reported to participate in or help substantial trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy. “An estimated 2.5%, or nearly half a trillion dollars [Rs 3.65 thousand crore] worth, of imports worldwide are counterfeit and pirated products,” the release said.

Update: The article has been edited to include Snapdeal’s response.