Big Retailers Pushing Legislation To Harm Online Retailers

from the why-compete-when-you-can-legislate? dept

Why should you compete with new technological innovations when you can just get elected officials to pass laws that greatly limit what those innovations can do? That seems to be the position of the National Retail Federation, the trade group that represents a bunch of the big offline retailers. We wrote about their attempt to do this last year, where they went so far as to claim (and then stand behind) that eBay was driving people to shoplift. Supposedly, selling stuff on eBay was just so addictive that once people ran out of their own stuff to sell on eBay, they would all rush to the nearest big box store to shoplift. That, of course, is totally bogus and not at all backed up by the facts. But who needs facts when you have politicians willing to do your bidding? The NRF’s statement was so hilarious, we can’t resist republishing it:

“Thieves often tell the same disturbing story: they begin legitimately selling product on eBay and then become hooked by its addictive qualities, the anonymity it provides and the ease with which they gain exposure to millions of customers. When they run out of legitimate merchandise, they begin to steal intermittently, many times for the first time in their life, so they can continue selling online. The thefts then begin to spiral out of control and before they know it they quit their jobs, are recruiting accomplices and are crossing states lines to steal, all so they can support and perpetuate their online selling habit.”

While the three laws proposed last year went nowhere, it didn’t take long for all three to be introduced again. The intended purpose of these three laws is to force these online platforms to interrogate every seller over every product they put online for sale. It goes against everything that’s the basis of section 230 rules for online platforms, in that it says “you’re not the tool someone uses, now you’re liable for everything that happens with the tool.” This is not, at all, about stopping crazy eBay addicts from shoplifting from big box stores. This is about making it tougher for people to buy and sell stuff online so that more people are forced to trek out to their local offline retailer to buy stuff.

The amusing thing is that, last year, when these same bills were introduced, the retailers were asked why they couldn’t just do a better job policing their stores for shoplifting — and the retailers replied that their employees were there to sell stuff, not to be police officers. Yet, the very purpose of these laws is to make that impossible for online retail services. It forces them all to be police officers, or face tremendous liability. It’s no secret that it’s tough to compete with new online services, but that’s no excuse for passing bogus laws to harm those online players.

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Comments on “Big Retailers Pushing Legislation To Harm Online Retailers”

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Ima Fish (profile) says:

When the music industry could not make the reselling of used CDs illegal, they did the next best thing. They made it difficult and very cost ineffective to buy and sell used CDs.

In Florida, the new legislation requires all stores buying second-hand merchandise for resale to apply for a permit and file security in the form of a $10,000 bond with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In addition, stores would be required to thumb-print customers selling used CDs, and acquire a copy of state-issued identity documents such as a driver’s license. Furthermore, stores could issue only store credit — not cash — in exchange for traded CDs, and would be required to hold discs for 30 days before reselling them.

Let’s hope the online retail industry is much more organized and better represented than the used CD industry.

interval says:

Re: Re:

I’m a little surprised that the florida voters didn’t laugh this out of the legislature. Then again, knowing just how asleep the American public is, I can’t be surprised. Nor should we all be surprised just how cheaply our state representatives can be purchased for.

“What a world, what a world…” I murmured as I melted into the pavement.

funny says:


I think the appropriate solution would be to shoplift everything we can in every store and watch the employees all get fired for not stopping us. And if we get caught for shoplifting tell the authorities that it was too hard to buy things online, so the next best thing was to steal everything we wanted because it was too inconvenient to pay at the front of the store.

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