As Counterfeit Products Pose “Immediate and Significant Risks” To Americans’ Health and Safety, Senate Finance Committee and Government Watchdog Agency Call for Improved Data on Inbound International Packages

A New Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report Finds Rising E-Commerce Poses Significant Challenges for U.S. Customs Officials, Calls for Improved Data Sharing to Protect American Consumers

Washington, D.C. – According to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, counterfeit goods from abroad are on the rise – and they’re much more dangerous than one might expect. Ninety nine percent of counterfeit iPhone chargers purchased in a recent investigation failed to meet U.S. fire and electric shock safety standards; and toxic chemicals including cyanide, arsenic, mercury, lead, urine and rat droppings were found in counterfeit cosmetics. Dangerous concentrations of lead were even found in common household goods like travel mugs. 

The GAO and the Senate Finance Committee reviewed the report’s findings during a recent Senate hearing and agreed that improved information sharing between U.S. customs agencies and the private sector could stop dangerous counterfeit products from reaching the U.S. Furthermore, with 90 percent of counterfeit goods reaching the U.S. through the international mail system and the U.S. Postal Service receiving nearly 500 million inbound international packages each year, customs officials and lawmakers agree that requiring advance electronic security data on all packages shipped from abroad would better protect our country from bad actors.

The discussion of counterfeit goods mirrors concerns around America’s opioid epidemic. Just last month, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) reported that illicit opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil are commonly shipped to the U.S. through the USPS. Of the nearly half billion packages the USPS received from foreign posts over the last year alone, over 300 million, or 64 percent, did not include critical advance electronic data. Without this data, U.S. customs officials are simply unable to effectively screen the rising volume of inbound packages shipped from abroad.  

When asked by Senator Bill Cassidy if CBP had the advance electronic data it needed from the USPS, CBP’s Executive Assistant Commissioner of Trade, Brenda B. Smith, testified saying, “the advanced electronic data that we’re seeing is not what we would like.”

While the Trade Act of 2002 requires private couriers like FedEx and UPS to provide advance electronic data on all inbound international packages, the USPS has not been required to adhere to the same standard. The consequences of this discrepancy are dire, and according to the PSI investigation, this vulnerability has made the U.S. Postal Service the preferred carrier for trafficking illicit drugs into the U.S.

“Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that requiring advance electronic data on all inbound international packages would help stop dangerous and illegal goods from reaching our country,” said Gov. Tom Ridge, senior advisor to Americans for Securing All Packages. “However, legislation which would require this information on all packages remains in limbo. It’s time to pass the STOP Act to keep our communities safe.”

“Every person has a basic right to feel safe – it’s the reason I’ve committed my life to fighting for a secure homeland,” said Juliette Kayyem, senior advisor to Americans for Securing All Packages. “We have the technology to address the vulnerabilities in the global postal system that are posing risks to American consumers. Why have we failed to address them? We can’t sit back and wait as people get hurt. We have to act – the time is now.”