U.S. Congressional Legislation: Retail Theft

Three bills currently under consideration in Congress would establish programs to combat organized retail theft.

  • One bill (S. 470) introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) would make organized retail theft a federal crime. The bill would also require that owners of retail marketplaces or online sales outlets review suspicious vendors. If they find evidence that the vendor is selling stolen goods, owners must notify the attorney general within five days. Marketplace owners must also prevent those vendors from selling the goods or request documentation from the vendor that the items were legitimately obtained.
  • Another bill (H.R. 1173) introduced by Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) would also make organized retail theft a federal crime. In addition, it would expand the crime of fraud to include the use of gift cards, UPC codes, and RFID technology to illegally obtain goods or services. The bill would require that operators of online marketplaces and retailers who sell high-volume goods report their sales activities to the government. (High-volume sellers would be defined as those who sell more than $12,000 in goods a year.) In addition, the measure would provide for civil forfeiture of any property used to commit or facilitate organized retail theft. Businesses whose goods or services were illegally sold online as a result of an organized retail theft operation would be allowed to seek compensatory damages.
  •  A third bill (H.R. 1166) introduced by Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-VA) would require that owners of online marketplaces disclose contact information for all high-volume sellers. In this bill, high-volume sellers are defined as those who sell more than $12,000 in goods a year or single items worth more than $5,000 each. If marketplace owners suspect that a seller acquired goods illegally, the owner would be required to block that seller from the site.



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