Michigan law aims to make online shopping safer, more transparent

Online marketplaces like Amazon will now need to disclose contact information of sellers on their site under a two-bill package signed into law earlier this month, which also would give prosecutors more power to go after online organized crime rings.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave a final OK to the bills earlier this month, which are now known as Public Act 152 and Public Act 153. The former of the two, Whitmer noted, was her 900th bipartisan bill to be signed during her administration and she praised it as protecting “families and consumer safety by requiring transparency and cracking down on criminals who sell counterfeit or stolen products online.”

RELATED: Whitmer has vetoed more bills per year than any Michigan governor since 1953

Rep. Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills), sponsor of now PA 153, said in a statement that the bills would serve to “protect shoppers from the entanglements of the world wide web.”

“With online platforms Michiganders can easily purchase things we need from the comfort of our homes,” he said. “Shoppers deserve protection from criminals — nefarious actors who use the convenience and anonymity of the internet to cheat buyers or even sell stolen items. Reasonable transparency requirements will deter criminals who try to hide behind a virtual mask.”

The package would require high-volume, third-party sellers to provide various forms of contact information such as email or bank information to online marketplaces. Those marketplaces would then be responsible for verifying that information and then disclose it to consumers.

High-volume, third-party sellers are defined by the bills as being an entity participating on an online marketplace that in any continuous 12-month period during the pervious 24 months has entered into 200 or more discrete sales/transactions with an aggregate total of $5,000 or more in gross revenue.

Earlier when the legislation passed out of the House, Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills) – the sponsor of now PA 152 – said that the bills were essential to “protecting consumers as more and more small businesses establish their online presence.”

Upon their signing earlier this month, she also noted that passing the act was one of her biggest priorities as a first-term legislator.

“This law will make third party reseller websites like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy more legitimate, fair, and safe to use for all Michiganders while simultaneously protecting our retailers and small businesses from increasing threats of organized retail crime,” she said. “With this legislation, Michigan sets the national standard for consumer protection and will once again take its leadership position at the forefront of innovative policymaking.”

The move was also hailed by groups like the Michigan Retailers Association (MRA), the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and stores such as Meijer.

“Retailers applaud Governor Whitmer for signing INFORM legislation into law today, protecting both consumers and retailers from the organized criminal rings who use online marketplaces to resell stolen merchandise for profit,” MRA President and CEO William J. Hallan said in a statement. “This law is a key step in limiting criminals’ ability to resell stolen goods while providing additional safety and transparency for consumers.”

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