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As organized retail theft skyrockets in Florida, state lawmakers seek to regulate online selling platforms

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 5:20 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB) - High-end smash and grab robberies are plaguing retailers across the state.

The Florida Retail Federation says organized retail theft is skyrocketing. In December alone, a high-end handbag retailer in Palm Beach lost $1.5 million in merchandise.

To counteract this trend, state lawmakers may soon require online merchants to know more about who is selling on their platforms.

“69% increase across the board, and it’s not just big-box retailers, it’s all retail,” said CEO Scott Shalley, “And these are organized entities, this is not shoplifting.”

Senate Bill 944 would require eBay and other middlemen between remote sellers and buyers to verify, identify, and contact information for anyone who sells more than $20,000 annually on a platform. Senator Dennis Baxley is sponsoring the bill.

“Registration of the marketplaces online will allow us to detect stolen merchandise much quicker,” Baxley told us.

Walgreens and Home Depot voiced support. eBay lobbyist Jim Daughton asked lawmakers to wait for a federal solution.

“Obviously we prefer the Federal bill to pass,” said Daughton.

But a Senate committee decided the state could not wait for something that might not happen at all.

“So, SB 944 is reported favorably” announced Committee Chair Ed Hooper.

Following the vote, Baxley said, “Florida is leading the way. We’re saying we are not going to tolerate that, we’re going to interrupt the sales process.”

The online registry would act as a traditional pawn shop that collects information about who is selling what and often recovers stolen property.

The Florida Retail Federation believes the registry will get results.

“This is about individuals who are selling high volume, high volume goods that are still in the box brand new. If you get two blends for your wedding gift and you go to sell them online, that certainly makes sense. If you get twenty-five in a year, that’s a little suspicious, so we’d like to be able to track those individuals,” said Shalley.

Online facilitators who do not follow the law could face fines of up to $10,000.

The law is set to take effect in July, but eBay says they want more time if it passes.

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