Five days after Alibaba Group Holdings (BABA) was suspended from an influential Washington D.C-based anti-counterfeiting group, company founder Jack Ma is snubbing the coalition’s convention tomorrow.
The company said “Alibaba feels it best that Jack Ma postpone his appearance.” He is being replaced by Alibaba Group’s president Michael Evans at the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition’s conference in Orlando.
Alibaba lashed out at IACC for suspending it from the coalition just a month after its acceptance. “We believe the IACC’s suspension of the general membership category is a step in the wrong direction and regrettable,” Alibaba spokeswoman Jennifer Kuperman said in a statement.
The IACC has been under fire from its more than 250 members for allowing Alibaba to join last month. On Friday, Alibaba’s membership was suspended following defections from members Gucci America, Michael Kors, and Tiffany. Kors called Alibaba and its Taobao marketplace, a platform with 9 million small sellers and hordes of counterfeits, “our most dangerous and damaging adversary.”
Many other members were considering leaving unless Alibaba left the coalition, the AP reported last week. The IACC leaders have been caught up in the scrutiny: the AP also said IACC president Robert Barchiesi has owned Alibaba stock since its 2014 IPO and “has close ties to a key Alibaba vice president,” seemingly in conflict with his role atop the coalition.
Following the suspension, Alibaba issued a statement promising it would improve its practices. “We will continue to discuss and communicate with more brands in the IACC . . . expedite the process to remove products identified as fakes and protect the interest of brands, no matter big or small.”
It made similar statements in 2014 and 2015, promising to expedite the process of removing fakes. So far it hasn’t been enough for Western brands like Gucci who find tens of thousands of counterfeit listings for their products on Taobao.
Despite Alibaba’s criticisms of IACC, it appears to be Alibaba’s own slow progress on addressing fake goods that is the focus of the recent row.