We brought brand protection and IP professionals together for a round table to discuss ways to improve the response to persistent brand infringement on Shopee and Tokopedia.
Who are Shoppee and Tokopedia
Founded in 2009, Tokopedia is Indonesia’s largest e-commerce marketplace with around 25% market share. The company claims to list more than 200 products and have 90m monthly active users.
Shopee first launched in Singapore in 2015 and has since expanded its reach to Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brazil. The platform rivals Tokopedia in many markets and claims it is the biggest player in South East Asia and Taiwan.
Why are Shopee and Tokopedia a problem?
Most problematic platforms ranked in a poll of Brand Protection professionals (July, 2020)
Both platforms appeared in our submission to the 2020 European Commission Consultation on the Counterfeit and Piracy Watchlist, highlighting the present danger posed to brands.
We started our session by asking our attendees where they rank Shopee and Tokopedia among other problematic platforms across the world. As we can see from the results of the poll, both appear in the top three.
These views are backed up within the 2019 US Review of Notorious Markets, which notes that Tokopedia is inundated with high levels of counterfeit clothing, counterfeit cosmetics and accessories, as well as pirated textbooks and other written materials.
The view from Corsearch
Working with Tokopedia
Polished enforcement tools but the platform does not facilitate lasting action.
Corsearch’s Brand Protection analysts acknowledge that Tokopedia does have slick online tools for making complaints. It also listens to takedown requests, and it is possible to develop a trusted relationship with them that reduces the need to deliver proof in every instance.
On the downside, however, our analysts note that Tokopedia never removes sellers permanently. It also does not punish persistent infringers. If it does, there is no transparency revealing how the penalty system works.
What Tokopedia does well:
- Removes items when informed
- Online complaint form easy to use
- Will accept 1000s of takedown requests in one go
- Trusts Corsearch and takes down items without asking questions
What Tokopedia could improve:
- Insight into how their penalty system works
- Removal of persistent sellers (they’re unwilling to close the accounts of sellers)
- Provide contacts within their internal IP team
Working with Shopee
A reliance on overly detailed documentation.
Working with Shopee to get infringements removed is even more problematic, according to our analysts. Their main complaint is the need to provide overly detailed documentation to provide proof of infringement. Documentation requirements can also vary a lot across different countries, which makes the process too cumbersome and slow.
Overall, our analysts said it is very difficult to build up a trusted relationship with Shopee. Like with Tokopedia, there is little hope of the platform taking infringing sellers down permanently.
What Shopee does well:
- Removes items when informed
- Generally compliant
What Shopee could improve:
- Slow responsiveness
- Not all listings come down at once
- Inconsistent requirements for information/documents needed to support enforcement
- Won’t remove sellers or shops with a high level of infringement activity
- Ways of building up a trusted relationship to bypass complex documentation requirements
In summary, while both platforms respond to takedown requests to a certain level, they are unwilling to form relationships with brands and shut off access to infringers permanently. At best, they appear to be ill-equipped to deal with widespread infringement. At worst, they appear to be actively assisting counterfeiters that continually pop up in different guises by refusing to take lasting action.
The view from brands
When we opened the conversation up to brand owners, insights continued to emerge in line with the same themes (please note that all quotes are anonymous in accordance with Chatham House Rules). Additional quotes can be found within the full summary available below.
Brands started by saying said that they have found it difficult to establish meaningful relationships with either platform:
“What you want is to build a relationship with the platforms, ideally with someone in their internal IP or legal department. What we’ve found though is it’s impossible to bypass the portal they have for making takedown requests. Everything is automated, impersonal and there is no way of starting a conversation about what your concerns are.”
Inconsistent processes and responses
Our panel also said that they have suffered from inconsistencies in takedown request processes:
“We find Tokopedia to be a very inconsistent platform. We send a similar number of notices monthly, but the success rate of things being removed can vary quite significantly. Some months we can have very few issues and are requests are accepted. Other months we’ll get a lot of pushback for no reason in particular – It feels like it’s pushback just for pushback’s sake.”
Next steps: Is there a way forward?
While the current outlook is not favourable for brands, there is some possible light at the end of the tunnel. In particular, it was suggested that significant progress could be made if brands, regulators and brand protection experts band together to form a united front and lobby for change.
At Corsearch this is something we wholeheartedly agree with. This is the very reason that INSYNC was set up – to drive global, cross-sector change in marketplace practices that will protect consumers and businesses from bad actors online.
This blog was originally published on the INSYNC website.