Washington, D.C. The National Retail Federation supports three bills introduced Wednesday that can help law-enforcement agencies fight organized retail crime.
Besides eating up $30 billion of retailers’ profits annually, ORC is on the rise as more shoppers are hunting for bargains in a slow economy. Customers may be unaware, however, that cheaper merchandise may be stolen or tainted.
ORC rings typically target consumer items that are in high demand but easy to steal such as infant formula, razor blades, cosmetics and gift cards, as well as DVDs, CDs, video games, electronics or designer clothing. Besides the financial loss, ORC can present a public health hazard because items such as infant formula or over-the-counter medications might be improperly stored or mislabeled.
“Retailers that are struggling to survive are seeing their inventory disappear in increasing amounts, and the goods end up at flea markets or on the Internet at prices that put temptation into the path of cash-strapped consumers trying to stretch every dollar,” said Joseph LaRocca, VP, Loss Prevention, NRF. “Losses from these crimes drive up the price of legitimate merchandise at a time when consumers can least afford it, and do serious damage to our nation’s already weakened economy.”
In a move to fight ORC, three bills were introduced on Wednesday: the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009; the Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009; and the E-Fencing Enforcement Act of 2009. While the bills offer different approaches to combating ORC, as a group they define ORC as a federal crime for the first time.
They require amendments of federal sentencing guidelines for criminals convicted of ORC, and require operators of online auction sites to cooperate with retailers and law-enforcement officials in their investigations of ORC. They also hold auction sites responsible for the sale of stolen merchandise that could have been prevented.
“This legislation shows that Congress is ready to stop treating the perpetrators of ORC like petty shoplifters and recognize them for the professional criminals they really are,” he said.