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Amazon, eBay & Walmart allegedly sell goods made with Turkmen cotton produced with forced labor

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19 February 2019

Are Amazon, Walmart, and eBay’s online 'marketplaces' providing a refuge for goods made with forced labor?

Author: Charlotte Tate & Eric Gottwald, International Labor Rights Forum

...[W]hile browsing online, we were surprised to find that we could buy cotton hand towels advertised as “made in Turkmenistan” on the websites of Amazon, Walmart, and eBay. In May 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took the extraordinary step of exercising its authority under the Tariff Act to ban the import of any products containing cotton from Turkmenistan due to the country’s systematic use of state-sponsored forced labor during the annual cotton harvest...So if Turkmen cotton is banned from the U.S. market and shunned by major apparel brands, how are Amazon, Walmart, and eBay getting away with it? The short answer is that none of them are directly importing or selling the towels, but instead allowing “third-party sellers” access to their e-commerce platforms in exchange for a cut of the sales proceeds...After being contacted by a Thomson Reuters Foundation reporter, Amazon responded by immediately removing the towels and several other “100% cotton” Goza products from its website, while leaving other items up. By contrast, Walmart and eBay continue to allow Goza to sell the towels on their websites and have deflected questions about forced labor to Goza as the third-party seller. 

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Company response
18 February 2019

Amazon response

Author: Amazon

Third-party sellers are required to comply with all relevant laws, regulations, and policies when listing items for sale in our store. Those who do not will be subject to action, including potential removal of their account. Items produced in whole or in part by forced labor, such as cotton from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, are prohibited by Amazon. The items in question are no longer available.

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Company response
18 February 2019

eBay response

Author: eBay

...The items you referenced are prohibited to be sold on eBay. They violate eBay’s International Trading Policy...

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Company response
18 February 2019

Walmart response

Author: Walmart

...Thank you for your inquiry and a chance to respond to allegations that Walmart sells goods made with Turkmen cotton produced with forced labor. When we were contacted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, we let them know we take allegations of forced labor seriously, and we would look into their inquiry, which we did. Walmart does not sell these items directly. Rather, there were some items sold by third party sellers on our online marketplace, and we removed these seller’s products that were made with Turkmen cotton from the site. Walmart is recognized as a leader in programs and policies that support the dignity of workers in our supply chain, and a key tenet of that commitment is working in a focused and collaborative way to help reduce forced labor in the global supply chain. Through Responsible Sourcing tools like our Standards for Suppliers, third-party audits, training programs and supplier engagement, we work to create a more responsible supply chain at Walmart...

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