Amazon says the Align Probiotic nutritional supplements currently for sale on its site are safe.
But that assurance only comes after the online retailer sent emails to recent Align buyers that the supplements they purchased might be fake and should be thrown away.
“If you still have this product, we recommend that you stop using it immediately and dispose of the item,” Amazon wrote in the customer email, which was first reported on by Wired.
Amazon’s statement emailed to USA TODAY says that “Amazon strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products. We invest heavily in prevention, take proactive steps to drive counterfeits to zero, and work with and empower brands through programs like Brand Registry, Transparency, and Project Zero.”
The spokesperson added that Amazon investigates “every claim of potential counterfeit thoroughly, and often in partnership with brands, and in the rare instance where a bad actor gets through, we take swift action, including removing the item for sale, permanently banning bad actors, pursuing legal action, and working with law enforcement when appropriate. We have taken these actions against the bad actors in question and proactively notified and refunded customers.”
Amazon did not disclose how the supplements came to light.
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Through the Brand Registry program, which is free, Amazon gives rights owners tools that aim to help them protect their intellectual property and suspected infringement of their products. Amazon says 130,000 brands have enrolled in the program, and that those who have, “on average are finding and reporting 99% fewer suspected infringements than before the launch of Brand Registry.”
Amazon describes its separate Transparency service as “an item-level tracing service where brands serialize each unit they manufacture with a unique code. Amazon then scans these codes and verifies the authenticity of the product before it reaches a customer.”
Customers can also scan the Transparency code via a mobile app to confirm the authenticity and learn more about the product, through usage instructions, ingredients, and expiration date. More than 2000 brands, from Fortune 500 companies to startups, have enrolled products in Transparency, Amazon says.
Meantime, the Project Zero program leverages machine learning and a brand’s knowledge of their own products to help combat fakes.
“Using the self-service counterfeit removal tool in Project Zero, brands can instantly remove counterfeit from our store and this information is fed into our automated protections so we can more effectively prevent counterfeit listings in the future,” Amazon says.
Procter & Gamble has not yet responded to a USA TODAY request for comment.
But a P&G spokesperson told Wired in an email that, “We are aware that some counterfeit Align product was sold on Amazon via third parties. Amazon has confirmed they have stopped third party sales of the Align products in question and Amazon is only selling Align product received directly from P&G manufacturing facilities.”
It is not known if P&G participated in Amazon’s Brand Registry, Transparency and Project Zero programs. Nor is it clear if the fake supplements that made their way onto Amazon, have been widely distributed through other retail channels.
“Counterfeit is an age-old problem, but one that we will continue to fight and innovate on to protect customers, brands, and sellers,” the Amazon spokesperson said.
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