FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Toy Association Report Exposes 3 Main Factors Contributing to the Rise in Counterfeit & Knockoff Toys Sold Online and Details Potential Solutions
New York, NY | January 15, 2019 – It’s a scene from any parent’s worst nightmare. Just last month, a child received a gift of what looked to be a popular magnetic toy set that comes in various rainbow-colored shapes and encourage kids to build and create. But in fact, the toy was an illicit product sold by a third-party vendor via a popular ecommerce site, and did not comply with the strict safety standards and regulations that toys are subject to in the United States. As a result, an unknowing consumer was able to purchase the set, and the four-year-old was able to easily break apart the toys to ingest more than a dozen magnets, causing a life threatening situation.
The proliferation of copycat and unregulated toys via online marketplaces raises significant safety and health hazards for consumers. The Toy Association’s new white paper, “The Real Threat of Fake Toys: The Increase of Knockoff and Counterfeit Toys Sold Online & How to Fight Back,” identifies three main factors contributing to the upsurge in knock-off, counterfeit, and otherwise illicit toys being sold via online marketplaces, including: insufficient vetting by marketplaces of sellers and products sold online; a burden of enforcement that is disproportionately placed on the IP rights holders (the brand owners); and consumers who are largely unaware of the scope of the problem and unknowingly purchase these products thinking they are held to the same standards as toys sold by legitimate companies.
“Safety is the U.S. toy industry’s number one priority and one child injured from a toy is one too many. Counterfeit products break laws, risk lives, and should not be sold anywhere, but can be abundant on some online marketplaces,” said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Toy Association. “Strong action must be taken to address these abuses. The toy industry is calling on all ecommerce marketplaces, the government, and all other stakeholders to work together to effectively and swiftly fix this problem before another child is needlessly injured by a counterfeit toy.”
Added Pasierb: “Consumers have come to rely on ecommerce platforms to provide discounted pricing and wide selection of name-brand quality toys also found at brick-and-mortar retail. However, under the current marketplace system, illicit sellers with little or no accountability take advantage of this consumer faith by offering inferior and unsafe counterfeit toys that put our children at risk. Anyone selling toys in the U.S. must be held to the same high safety standards that apply to the toy brands consumers have come to know and trust.”
The Toy Association suggests three main solutions to combat each of these factors contributing to the problem:
- Solution to Insufficient Vetting by Marketplaces: The Toy Association proposes online marketplaces need to do more to proactively screen sellers and products. This would work by requiring marketplaces to collect verified contact information, such as screening sellers similar to the way certain social media channels have proposed verifying authenticity and contact information for those seeking to run certain political or issue ads. Products could be screened by requiring sellers to demonstrate legitimacy and safety of the products and instituting improved tracking of products to sellers.
- Solution to the Burden of Enforcement Disproportionately Placed on Rights Holders: Online marketplaces should work with industry organizations and brand owners to create programs that give the presumption to IP rights holders, and provide more streamlined removal processes, a direct point of contact for the industry, trainings to industry groups on best practices, and more transparency to stop culprits. While some online platforms have set up brand protection programs that seek to achieve these goals, more must be done to continue to shift the burden away from the rights holder.
- Solution to a Lack of Consumer Awareness: More consumer education on the risks of buying online is needed. If online marketplaces refuse to monitor sellers and products as proposed above, one option is to allow rights holders to create “official” product listings. This would help identify authentic product listings for consumers, who could then feel more confident when making a purchase that the product is real. Along the same lines, a “verified” stamp for sellers similar to the verified stamp as seen on many social media sites could also be instituted.
The white paper also offers initial policy solutions to address the issue such as amending the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to require safety certifications be provided for all toys sold on marketplaces, and empowering Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to improve targeting of de minimis shipments.
“The Toy Association’s white paper represents the concerns and voice of our members to raise awareness of the seriousness of counterfeit products available today while also providing actionable solutions,” Pasierb said. “This paper – and future updates – will be a centerpiece in our advocacy campaign over the coming months to drive home the toy and play community’s concerns on Capitol Hill and to the Administration as we come together to demand change.”
The report is intended to be a living document that will be updated as developments occur. Member and consumer experiences, engagement with platforms, and policy updates will all be considered in future revisions.
“The Real Threat of Fake Toys” is available at ToyAssociation.org.
About The Toy Association www.toyassociation.org / www.thegeniusofplay.org / www.playsafe.org
Founded in 1916, The Toy Association™, Inc. is the not-for-profit trade association representing all businesses involved in creating and delivering toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages. The Toy Association leads the health and growth of the U.S. toy industry, which has an annual U.S. economic impact of $110.9 billion, and its 950+ members drive the annual $27 billion U.S. domestic toy market. The Toy Association serves as the industry’s voice on the developmental benefits of play, and promotes play’s positive impact on childhood development to consumers and media. The organization has a long history of leadership in toy safety, having helped develop the first comprehensive toy safety standard more than 40 years ago, and remains committed to working with medical experts, government, consumers, and industry on ongoing programs to ensure safe and fun play.
As a global leader, The Toy Association produces the world-renowned North American International Toy Fair and Fall Toy Preview; advocates on behalf of members around the world; sustains the Canadian Toy Association; acts as secretariat for the International Council of Toy Industries and International Toy Industry CEO Roundtable; and chairs the committee that reviews and revises America’s widely emulated ASTM F963 toy safety standard.