FTC Places Online Marketplaces on Notice of Obligations Under INFORM Consumer Act
“The INFORM Consumers Act requires online marketplaces to protect consumers from counterfeit, unsafe, and stolen goods by verifying their high-volume third-party sellers’ identities, and making it easier for consumers to report suspicious marketplace activity,” said FTC lawyer Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The Commission will enforce the Act to the fullest extent possible and will collaborate with our state partners to hold online marketplaces accountable.”
The letters enclose a copy of the Act, highlight the responsibilities the Act places on online marketplaces, and urge that businesses carefully review the statute and take all steps necessary to fully comply by June 27, 2023. In the letters, FTC staff also urge online marketplaces to communicate with their third-party sellers about the information the Act requires to be collected, verified and disclosed.
The letters also emphasize that a violation of the act may be treated as a violation of an FTC rule, and thus noncompliant online marketplaces may face enforcement that could result in civil penalties of $50,120 per violation. The letters are informational and the FTC is not publicly releasing the names of the recipients.
Understanding Compliance Obligations is Crucial
As part of the FTC’s effort to fully inform the public about the provisions of the INFORM Consumers Act and to put businesses on notice of their obligations as of June 27, 2023, it has developed business education materials that are available on the agency’s website.
“Informing Businesses About the INFORM Consumers Act,” summarizes how online marketplaces can comply with the act when it goes into effect with links to the act itself.
As set forth in the new business guide and the text of the law, the Act esssentially boils down to this. Under the INFORM Consumers Act, online marketplaces must have more information about who is selling on their platform. Covered sellers must promptly comply with those requests for information or risk suspension. And consumers who buy from those sellers will have a place to report questionable activity.