Luxury Brands Won’t Say ‘Open Sesame’ to Alibaba

Alibaba Group

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba recently joined an international anti-counterfeiting alliance. But once it did, some of that group’s members started sounding like they’d rather team up with the 40 thieves.

In April, the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition announced that it had accepted Alibaba—which has a reputation for turning a blind eye to knock-off goods—as its newest member. In a May 6 statement, the IACC said that Alibaba was admitted as part of a new program to include online intermediaries as “one aspect of our broader, more holistic approach to fighting counterfeiting.”

But two luxury retailers who belonged to the group disagreed. Gucci America left the IACC in early May without comment, but the Associated Press reported IACC vice president Candice Li-Uzoigwe as saying, “They were not happy about Alibaba joining.” Michael Kors left the IACC in April, calling Alibaba “our most dangerous and damaging adversary.”

Bloomberg News reported in April that Alibaba’s joining was the culmination of a three-year program to ban rogue sellers and fraudulent listings from its platform. That effort also included hiring a former Justice Department prosecutor and Apple cybercrime investigator to fight counterfeiting.

Alibaba is trying to repair its reputation and joining the IACC will certainly help. But as the luxury brand defections show, it’s going to be hard to put that genie back in the bottle.