Bryan Wachter: Senate Bill 314

By Bryan Wachter

Nevada legislators had an opportunity to pass legislation which would have protected Nevada consumers from the counterfeit, knockoff and downright dangerous products that are flooding online markets. Senate Bill 314 – which provided consumer protections – had bipartisan support and it should have had no problem receiving the majority votes needed to pass through the senate and move on to the Assembly. Ultimately, the bill met its fate in Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro’s desk drawer as she chose to play politics instead of letting a widely supported policy come to a vote on the senate floor.

Senate Bill 314 would have addressed the growing problem of organized retail crime that is taking place in Nevada and across the country. Organized retail crime is not petty shoplifting; it is two or more people illegally obtaining substantial quantities of products through theft and fraud as part of an unlawful commercial enterprise. Counterfeit goods cost the United States economy an estimated $509 billion dollars each year, according to the FBI, and 97% of retailers have experienced organized retail crime in the past year.

The real victims of this organized crime are the consumers. In addition to the rising cost of goods to offset these losses, counterfeit products are a significant concern for consumers. The issue of counterfeit goods is prevalent, one in five parents have reported their child receiving a counterfeit toy as a gift. Counterfeit lithium-ion laptop batteries pose significant risk of extreme heat, self-igniting, and exploding. Counterfeit prescription drugs may not contain the active ingredient or could lead to accidental overdose. Counterfeit cosmetics can cause severe skin reactions.

Online retailers, or marketplaces, which opposed this legislation resorted to completely inaccurate descriptions of the problem and the solutions in the bill. They say individual Etsy sellers will have to make their personal contact information public. That is completely untrue. This legislation would require bulk sellers to make business information public, and no personal information would be disclosed. This contact information is critical for several reasons. First, for the small, local artist who had their ideas and intellectual property stolen, they would have an address to send a cease-and-desist letter. The government departments tasked with keeping unsafe products off the market would be able to track down the bad actors. Consumers could have peace of mind by being able to check on the reputation of the vendors they are purchasing from online.

This is a common-sense solution to a growing problem. Las Vegas is ranked in the top ten areas with the highest amounts of organized retail crime. This problem is not going away, and the longer legislators wait to take action, the more consumers may be harmed both financially and physically by this unregulated market. Senator Cannizzaro, that is on you.