ATLANTA, GA – Attorney General Chris Carr yesterday hosted partners from Georgia’s law enforcement and business communities to strengthen the fight against organized retail crime across the state. This meeting served as an opportunity to hear from public and private partners about their experience with organized retail crime, including smash-and-grab robberies, after-hours break-ins, or thefts that break the supply chain. Participants also shared positive steps they are taking to address the issue and protect both customers and employees. Those in attendance included representatives from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council, Amazon, CVS, Home Depot, Macy’s, Walmart, Walgreens, Publix, and the Georgia Retailers Association.
“Organized retail crime is on the rise, and the impact to Georgia and its citizens is significant and weighs heavy on our economy,” said Carr. “At a time when it’s incredibly difficult to hire staff, where workforce is cited as one of the most significant challenges facing businesses of all sizes, the additional concern a potential employee now has is for his or her own personal safety. It’s imperative that both the public and private sector come together to share information and resources to dismantle these increasingly violent and brazen networks once and for all, and that’s exactly what we intend to do.”
According to a 2021 economic impact analysis from the Retail Industry Leaders Association and Buy Safe America Coalition, Georgia businesses lose over $3 billion to retail theft annually. This includes $1.6 billion in stolen goods and $326 million in lost tax revenue (federal, state and local), along with 17,000 lost jobs.
This unlawful activity can also be linked to other criminal operations, including gang activity, human and drug trafficking, corruption, bribery and money laundering.
According to the same 2021 study, nearly 76 percent of those retailers reported physical assault against an associate as a result of organized retail crime, while 41 percent reported attacks involving weapons.
Just last week, Target announced plans to close nine stores in New York City, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle due to violence and retail theft.
Earlier this year, two men from New York were suspected of having traveled to Northeast Georgia to engage in retail theft at surrounding Walmart stores, including one in Athens-Clarke County.
In Monroe County, officers investigating an organized retail crime ring found three suspects with over $4,000 worth of stolen goods from stores in Locust Grove and the Tanger Outlets.
Inform Consumers Act
Georgia’s Inform Consumers Act, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2023, aims to hinder criminals from selling stolen goods on any online marketplace and offers protections to consumers who unknowingly purchase these stolen and counterfeit goods. A federal version of the INFORM Consumers Act, which took effect on June 27, 2023, provides additional enforcement mechanisms to State Attorneys General to bring a civil action in federal court against any online marketplace believed to be in violation of the federal statute.
Together, both the Georgia and federal laws require third-party, high-volume sellers operating on online marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, and eBay to provide contact information on the seller’s product page, in-order confirmation messages and account transaction histories, including a working phone number, working email address or other methods of direct electronic messaging provided by the seller. High-volume sellers are defined as third-party sellers who make $5,000 or more in 12 continuous months and have conducted 200 or more transactions in an online marketplace. Sellers whose annual revenue on the marketplace exceeds $20,000 must also provide their contact information to consumers.
The law also requires that online marketplaces establish a mechanism that allows consumers to report suspicious activity, such as:
- An item that appears to be fake or counterfeit
- An item that differs from what was ordered (maybe it doesn’t look like the picture on the product page or came in a different quantity)
- An item that has expired or has unexpected signs of deterioration or use
- A seller advertising branded merchandise at unusually low prices
- The seller tries to get you to conduct the transaction outside of the marketplace
- The seller asks you to pay for the merchandise via a mobile payment app, wire transfer, gift card, or another non-standard method
If a high-volume seller fails to comply with the provisions of the INFORM Consumers Act, it shall be considered an unfair or deceptive act or practice in violation of the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act and could result in significant civil penalties.
Consumers who suspect a scam or unfair business practice should contact the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at consumer.ga.gov or 404-651-8600.