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FCC Requests eBay and Amazon Crackdown

FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly

FCC Commissioner Michael O'RiellyA government agency took an unusual step of getting directly involved in ecommerce matters. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requested the heads of eBay and Amazon do more to prevent the sale of fake set-top boxes on their marketplaces.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly sent a letter to eBay CEO Devin Wenig and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on May 25th.

The set-top boxes in question perpetrate intellectual property theft and consumer fraud, according to the commissioner, by “enabling the unlawful streaming of copyrighted material.” Some of the boxes display FCC logo without the agency’s permission.

“Many of these sellers are attempting to distribute their non-compliant products through online marketplaces such as yours,” the commissioner wrote Wenig and Bezos.

Of course, Amazon has skin in the game through its Amazon Studios subsidiary which produces and distributes movies and television series.

The FCC commissioner said he recognized that eBay and Amazon have taken proactive steps to remove devices that are marketed as facilitating piracy, and interestingly, he revealed that eBay actively removes devices “with red flag phrases like “never pay another cable bill” or “fully loaded” that suggests an infringing purpose.”

But he said such devices “continue to make it to consumers through your websites,” and wrote, “For these reasons, I am seeking your further cooperation in assisting the FCC in taking steps to eliminate non-FCC compliant devices or devices that fraudulently bear the FCC logo.”

He asked Wenig and Bezos to act swiftly when notified by the FCC of particular devices.

What was most remarkable about the letter: he asked the CEOs to hand over information about sellers listing the devices (“If this situation arises, I also ask that you provide information involving the manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers to the Commission.”)

TechCrunch reported on the letter and updated its story with responses from eBay and Amazon.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

2 thoughts on “FCC Requests eBay and Amazon Crackdown”

  1. I don’t know anyone who’s using those “free TV” modules/boxes/programs. For awhile, there were bandit signs all over Phoenix advertising them. They disappeared pretty quick. If you don’t want to pay for cable, you can watch almost everything via over-the-air network signals, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video. A good cable package isn’t all that expensive. I wonder if it’s mostly very-poor who use those things.

    I wouldn’t mind a big-time takedown of all the illegal streaming sites (from cable TV shows to pornography). They did it with file sharing ten years ago. They could go after those sites if they wanted to. Most of them are so loaded with spyware and viruses, I wouldn’t recommend anyone use them.

    The hardware should be easy to remove from the marketplace. The network of illegal streaming websites are hard, because they’re all illegal, hide behind penniless businesses, international entities, etc.

  2. Hello Ina, I have reported many many times people who are selling health supplements and skin care with the Fake logo of USDA Organic and FDA coming from India, Pakistan and China. Nothing has been done and I was shocked to learn that every year thousands of people die worldwide because of these fake supplements. I saw a documentary of people in Pakistan and India where they put a mix of powders right on the floor, where little kids play all day, and by hand, fill up capsules. Zero hygiene. This is not a question of competition, it is truly a question of life and death. If anyone report this to eBay, they do nothing about it, if you report these sites to Google, they do Nothing about it, because the people who oversee these things are staff from same regions. American goods of this kind should be regulated at ALL levels by American people, IN America, is just fair, Nobody else will care about what happens to people in America.

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