INFORM Consumers Act takes aim at $95 billion retail theft losses and organized crime
The top stolen items include apparel, electronics and health and beauty products and 86% of retailers believed federal legislation is needed. The legislation aims to make it harder for bad actors to sell stolen goods.
GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Retail theft is an almost $95 billion problem. That’s according to latest numbers from the National Retail Federation. Couple that with a 26% increase in organized retail crime. Now there’s a new law to target organized criminals while also protecting you the consumer.
Brenda Smoke calls herself a dedicated bargain hunter.
“If you want something, you get it,” she said.
Which is why she’s inside Greenville’s Zion Thrift Store, where she just nabbed a $20 queen size electric blanket that’s usually five times the price.
“It’s a fair bargain,” she said. “Fair is fair.”
But amongst the bargains are other noticeable less welcoming signs. Zion World Wide Mission Inc. regional director Rev. Delinx Meralus says organized criminals are targeting his store.
“It’s like every day,” he said.
And he showed FOX Carolina the empty boxes targeted by teams of offenders, from small electronics to health and beauty supplies. His complaints are in line with a new report from a National Retail Federation retail security survey.
“I’m very concerned,” Rev. Delinx said. “We want people to understand that in life every decision you make has consequences.”
Retail theft is responsible for almost $95 billion in losses, up from $91 billion in 2020. The top stolen items include apparel, electronics and health and beauty products and most retailers believed federal legislation is needed.
“How do we keep up with payroll with all this,” Rev. Meralus said.
Legislated relief comes in the form of the Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers (INFORM Consumers) Act.
“It’s a big step,” Rev. Meralus.
As part of the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, the legislation aims to make it harder for bad actors to sell stolen goods by combatting the online sale of stolen items, but also counterfeit and dangerous consumer products.
“Legislation is supposed to put the fear of God in people so the punishment matches the crime,” said Dr. Bernard F. Pettingill, economist.
Dr. Pettingill is referring to the legislation and enforcement. It will require that high volume third-party sellers provide a government ID, tax ID, bank account information and contact info to their online marketplace. Additionally, the online marketplace will need to create a hotline for customers to report stolen items and violators could face civil and criminal actions from the State Attorneys General Office.
“It will help with the online situation,” Rev. Meralus said.
Experts like Dr. Pettingill agree, but argues the legislation is too narrowly focused and lacks bite.
“There’s no deterrent. If the smash and grabbers would get five years in jail they would stop,” he said.
Dr. Pettingill also has concerns about transparency from vendors, likening it to the federal governments focus on price transparency in hospitals over the last two presidential administrations.
“(Hospitals) write off the fine that they have to incur to keep from publishing the cost of each individual surgical intervention. And that’s what’s going on right now,” he said.
It’s important to mention online marketplaces have until June 27 to implement procedures and policies that comply with the INFORM Consumers Act.
Copyright 2023 WHNS. All rights reserved.