Illicit trade

E-commerce and illicit trade


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 Project under the OECD’s Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade (TF-CIT)



E-commerce and online sales have become a major player in global trade with their growth expected to rise significantly over the coming years. As with all forms of trade, however, it is vulnerable to criminals and counterfeit trade.The Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has turned the attention of criminals even more towards the online environment, with the internet becoming the prominent way to sell fraudulent COVID-19 related products.


To address this risk, the OECD’s Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade (TF-CIT) is carrying out a comprehensive, quantitative exercise to provide additional structure and evidence to discuss the Internet's role in the context of trade in counterfeit goods. This research employs the existing data on counterfeit seizures to better understand the dynamics involved with e-commerce and related challenges in the context of counterfeiting. It also scopes areas where potential governance gaps might exist. This project is carried out in collaboration with the Business at OECD Expert Group on Anti-Illicit Trade [Anti Illicit Trade | ( a new and dynamic partnership to combat illicit trade across e-commerce platforms and on-line marketplaces.



Governments in many countries have introduced measures to address online challenges. These include:

  • Government certificates issued to trusted websites
      • In Australia, the Smart Trade Mark is an initiative that enables trade mark owners to authenticate their products or services offere on on-line platforms. Smart Trade Mark connects platforms to the government register to prove the authenticity of a product or service.
      • In the United States the discussed Shope Safe Act will require online sellers to supply identification credentials similar for conducting any sort of offline business transaction in the United States.
  • Promotion of voluntary co-operation schemes between key stakeholders
      • In the US the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) and the US Chamber of Commerce (USCC) partner to combat counterfeit goods.
      • In the EU the Memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the sale of counterfeit goods on the internet is a voluntary agreement between various on-line platforms and right holders (e.g. fast-moving consumer goods, consumer electronics, fashion and luxury goods, sports goods, films, software, games and toys). The MoU frames co-operation between the signatories to prevent offers of counterfeit goods from appearing in online marketplaces. The MoU is facilitated by the European Commission.
  • Streamlining of best practices (e.g., notice and takedown procedures)
      • In the US, the on-going debate includes identification and promotion of existing practices for e-commerce platforms and third-party marketplaces.
      • In the EU, the White paper prepared the EUIPO outlines seven best practices for fighting counterfeit sales online.
      • From the business community the International Chamber of Commerce has also joined the debate, by putting forward best practices for removing fakes from online platforms.

Government action alone is not enough to address online marketplaces' misuse to facilitate global illicit flows. Both public and private sector stakeholders both have an essential role to play.



E-commerce transactions are closely linked with shipments via express or international postal services. Both provide fantastic solutions to businesses and citizens. Unfortunately, both have been intensely misused by traffickers in illicit trade.


The TF-CIT checks what standards might be revised to improve international cooperation and public/ private partnerships in the screening of small parcels for illicit goods.




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