Alibaba announced yesterday that it had spent $160m over the past two years eradicating counterfeit products from its sales websites.
The Chinese ecommerce group said it employed a 2,000-strong task force and 5,400 “volunteers” to police its sites for items such as $16 Calvin Klein clutches, $90 Tiffany rings and $8 Cath Kidston backpacks.
In the third quarter, Alibaba’s retail websites transacted $90bn in merchandise – just under $1bn a day. The company typically ships more than 16m packages a day.
Alibaba, whose $25bn New York listing made it the second-largest web group behind Google, continues to face scrutiny for the prevalence of counterfeit goods on its sites, mainly Taobao, the eBay-like third party sales website that handles most of its business.
The company yesterday launched a publicity blitz aimed at countering the perception that it is not doing enough to tackle the problem, which could deter investors and invite lawsuits.
Jonathan Lu, Alibaba chief executive, told a press conference in Hangzhou, the group’s home town, that counterfeiting was mainly an “offline” problem that was easier to tackle because of the tools available on the internet: “By analysing transaction data we can trace counterfeiters who sell online.
“Through the analysis of big data, online sources of counterfeit products can be tracked offline, making it easier for authorities to do their work.”
The group removed more than 90m listings of suspected counterfeit products across Alibaba’s ecommerce platforms between January and September, according to chief risk officer Polo Shao, addressing the same press conference.
In November, Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and largest shareholder, blamed “greedy” consumers for the prevalence of fake merchandise online.
Taobao has been conducting checks on its third-party sellers since it was named as a “notorious market” by the US trade representative for its violations of intellectual property rights in the four years to 2011.