With US Senator Chuck Grassley
Q: What should consumers know when shopping for gifts during the holiday season and beyond?
a: The pandemic has fueled online shopping as more Americans turn to e-commerce to buy everyday goods and gifts. It is estimated that online shopping is setting records this holiday season, with online sales reaching $207 billion. As the US economy struggles to overcome bottlenecks and low inventory in the supply chain, concerns about shipping slowdowns and delivery delays aren’t the only issues consumers need to watch. Law enforcement and oversight agencies warn consumers shoppers to look for counterfeit and counterfeit goods. Counterfeit and pirated goods loot consumers to the tune of $500 billion each year. And it’s not just hitting luxury brands and retailers. Counterfeit goods pose serious risks to consumer health, from dummy infant formula to faulty batteries and poor cosmetics. When shopping for merchandise online, don’t be shy about being skeptical. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always trust your instincts. Not worth the deal if the purchased product is fake or unsafe. Before sharing sensitive information and financial information online, ensure that the website uses a safe and secure transaction portal. Specifically, look for the lock icon and https:// in your browser. This is an important security tool that refers to protecting your payments. For example, illicit websites may install malware that can look up your credit card information and passwords stored on your hard drive. Consumer watchdogs also recommend checking labels and packaging for broken or missing safety seals, tainted products, and false warranty information and expiration dates on perishable products. Giving and receiving is a cherished tradition in America. I encourage shoppers to protect yourselves and loved ones this holiday season. Don’t waste your hard-earned money and savings onto a web portal or online retailer without doing your due diligence to make sure it’s a reliable company.
Q: What should consumers do if they are deceived by counterfeit goods?
a: Don’t take it back on a hard lesson you learned. Take actions that will help others avoid theft. Report unsafe counterfeit products to the US Customs Border Protection or the National Center for Intellectual Property Rights. Or report suspicious activity by calling (800) Be Alert. The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center works to protect Americans from transnational criminal organizations and combat intellectual property theft. As a Republican chair on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I use my legislative and oversight authority to continue to press for honest enforcement of our country’s anti-fraud laws and consumer protection tools. Putting teeth into trade enforcement and holding federal agencies accountable are two ways I work on behalf of Iowans to protect their well-being and their hard-earned money. Being exposed to deceptive online hacking not only hurts consumers but creates an unfair situation for legitimate retailers who stick to rules, jump through regulatory hoops and pay taxes to create jobs and support local economies. Bad actors infiltrate every sector of the economy, from pharmaceuticals to entertainment, electronic goods and clothing. Consider the disappointment when cybercriminals deceive sports fans by selling fake tickets to a Big 10 soccer game at Kennick Stadium in Iowa City or to see basketball magic at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames. It’s a growing problem that I’m working on on behalf of Iowans. I co-sponsored a bipartisan bill targeting online sales of stolen, counterfeit, and dangerous products. Directs online retail marketplaces that include third-party sellers of consumer products to verify the identity of those sellers. In cities across America, we are seeing a rise in waves of organized crime referred to as “smash and grab” targeting traditional stores. I work to protect consumers from retail organized crime that wholesales stolen or counterfeit goods online. Improving transparency will help consumers become smart shoppers and discourage illegal sales. It’s the season to prevent online smiles from taking advantage of consumer confidence and boost confidence in the marketplace, both online and on the high street.