Amazon has been sending an email to suppliers in which it offers them access to a new program that is designed to help combat the presence of counterfeit goods on its site.

“You may have heard about out item-level Authentication service, Transparency, which can help you proactively ensure that customers are receiving genuine products,” the email says. “What you may not know is that Transparency can also help you … prevent the sale and shipment of counterfeit products to Amazon customers and beyond … safeguard your brand from potential counterfeit products listed on ASINs under your brand … enable customers to verify product authenticity, regardless of point of purchase location … communicate unit-level product information to customers, including manufacturing date, location and more … protect customer reviews for your products.”

The email is signed, “Amazon Brand Registry.”

The Transparency site says that “after a brand starts applying unique Transparency codes for a product, Amazon will begin to look for and scan these codes within its FCs to ensure that only authentic products are shipped out to customers. Units that fail Transparency authentication checks are investigated for potential counterfeits. Suspected counterfeits will be handled as per Amazon’s anti-counterfeiting policies Selling partners are required to provide a Transparency code for every unit of Transparency-enabled products they fulfill in order for Amazon to verify that only authentic units are shipped to customers.

Amazon says that Transparency is currently available in the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, but the Transparency app is only available currently in the US.

KC's View: Counterfeit products have turned into a hairball for Amazon, which is why it is venturing into this arena. Consumers, with some justification, expect it to police the products it is selling on its site.

My reading of the memo suggests that it is a little softball for my tastes … I think that Amazon ought to be a little tougher on this issue - requiring, not suggesting, that companies be able to prove that what they are selling are real, not fake.

The memo is a little unclear about whether Transparency is an Amazon-owned system, or a third-party system. My sense is that the latter may have more credibility, but if Amazon is going to own its own system, it needs to structure it in a way that assures accuracy and independence … the only thing worse than not having a system would be having a system that is deceptive.

I’m a firm believer in transparency, trackability and traceability - it is what consumers want and demand, and at some point retailers that do not have such systems at their disposal will end up at a competitive disadvantage.