Noting that criminal networks continue to threaten store teams and consumer safety, Steve Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, is urging a House-Senate Conference committee to reach an agreement that includes the bipartisan INFORM Consumers Act in the final legislative compromise.
Anderson noted that Americans rely on the essential products and services found at their local pharmacy, and for good reason.
"Throughout the COVID pandemic, NACDS stores-member retailers and suppliers worked together, innovating boldly so that patients’ and consumers’ needs were continuously met," he said.
With COVID organized theft growing more sophisticated — and criminals exploiting new opportunities for theft — "NACDS is calling on Congress to prioritize consumer health and safety, and to help stamp out organized retail crime before year’s end," Anderson said.
He also emphasized that pharmacies remain a prime target for organized retail criminals, or ORC, looking to dupe unsuspecting consumers for their own personal gain and profit.
"In fact, the ubiquity and convenience of NACDS members’ stores have made them among the most targeted retail industries. NACDS represents traditional drug stores, and mass merchants and supermarkets with pharmacies — which collectively operate more than 40,000 pharmacies nationwide," he said.
"ORC poses a serious threat to the health and safety of online and in-store consumers and store teams. These thefts and frauds have led to the harassment and physical assault of store employees and customers," Anderson said. "Additionally, billions of dollars in products — including over-the-counter medications, infant formula, and health and beauty products — have been stolen and resold through online retail marketplace platforms, without regard for proper handling procedures or safety protocols."
He went on to say that the COVID pandemic has also gravely increased the risk of ORC, giving criminals the opportunity to leverage e-commerce marketplaces to set up fake accounts and sell illicit, tampered items.
"According to a January 2022 Congressional Research Service report, “the increase in multi-channel sales — such as customers buying online and picking up goods in a store — can provide enhanced opportunities for fraud by ORC groups and others. [And] as more people turned to online shopping [during the pandemic], online marketplaces have become even more attractive venues for fencing stolen goods,” Anderson noted.
"Now more than ever, it is critical to take action that would crack down on the ORC networks and criminal enterprises threatening the well-being of the American consumer — and to do so without delay," he said.
"Fortunately, bipartisan legislation that would help keep pharmacies and consumers safe from criminal networks has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and passed in the U.S. House of Representatives as a part of the broader America COMPETES Act.
Anderson explained that The INFORM Consumers Act — legislation on which the retail community, law enforcement, consumer groups and even online retail marketplaces themselves agree — promotes safety, transparency and accountability by requiring e-commerce marketplaces to verify the identity of third-party sellers operating on their platforms and provide basic contact details to customers who may have questions or concerns about the products they purchase.
As a House-Senate Conference Committee works to reconcile differences between the Senate’s United States Innovation and Competition Act and the House’s America Competes Act, Anderson is urging the committee to reach an agreement that includes the bipartisan INFORM Consumers Act in the final legislative compromise.
"American consumers, store teams, local businesses and communities can’t afford to wait," said Anderson.