Federal News Network: White House, GSA positions on e-commerce platforms perplex industry association

“With Overstock’s decision to withdraw its bid protest of the e-commerce platform solicitation, it looks as though the General Services Administration has a clear path to kick off its three-year pilot.”

“But wait, not so fast. The White House’s executive order on e-commerce platforms creates a whole other level of potential roadblocks to this effort.”

“President Donald Trump signed the order on Jan. 31 with a goal of cracking down on counterfeit products and threatening Amazon, Walmart.com, eBay and others with suspension and debarment unless they address this growing concern.”

“Immediately, it was clear based on Navarro’s comments, GSA’s e-commerce platform effort faced a new set of obstacles.”

“’This crisis is not about any one e-commerce platform. This is about e-commerce platforms as a class playing by a different set of rules that simultaneously hammer brick-and-mortar retailers, defraud consumers, steal American jobs, and rip off intellectual property rights holders,’ said Peter Navarro, the assistant to the President for trade and manufacturing policy, during a press call on Jan. 31. ‘Under current lax interpretations of existing rules and laws, e-commerce platforms face virtually no liability for their counterfeit trafficking. Today, virtually immune from the kind of laws and liabilities that govern bricks-and-mortar retail, e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Shopify, Alibaba, eBay, JD.com, WalMart.com and a constellation of lesser players provide the digital hubs that perniciously interconnect vast cadres of online third-party counterfeiters and social media enablers, like Instagram, to American consumers.’”

“At the same time, GSA is on the path to setting up a new e-commerce platform, potentially with Amazon or Walmart or eBay, and will not require the platform providers to follow specific laws like the Trade Agreements Act or the Buy American Act because purchases are under the micro-purchase threshold of $10,000. The path cleared last week when Overstock withdrew its protest. The Government Accountability Office said Overstock’s lawyers offered no explanation as to why it had given up on the protest. Overstock filed its complaint in January soon after GSA updated its request for proposals. Some experts say it may be because after reading the documents GSA submitted to GAO, Overstock realized its chances of winning were small. GSA now is expected to make an award for its pilot in the coming months.”

“These mixed messages coming from the White House and GSA is leaving some industry organizations seeking answers.” Read the full article here.

Source: White House, GSA positions on e-commerce platforms perplex industry association – By Jason Miller, March 2, 2020. Federal News Network.

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