EU wants answers from AliExpress about fake products

The European Commission has opened an investigation into AliExpress for the alleged sale of illegal products including falsified medicines.

The Request for Information procedure – filed under the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) – gives the e-commerce company until November 27 to provide information on the measures it has taken to comply with “obligations related to risk assessments and mitigation measures to protect consumers online.”

In particular, the Commission wants information on AliExpress’ procedures relating to the dissemination of illegal products “online such as fake medicines.”

After receiving the requested information it will assess next steps which could include the formal opening of proceedings against the e-commerce giant under Section 66, a process that could eventually lead to sanctions including fines.

Commenting on the move, the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said: “The Digital Services Act is not just about hate speech, disinformation and cyberbullying,” although provisions that hold online platforms legally accountable for the content posted to them have driven news coverage of the DSA in the last couple of years.

Breton said the Act “is also there to ensure removal of illegal or unsafe products sold in the EU via e-commerce platforms, including the growing number of fake and potentially life-threatening medicines and pharmaceuticals sold online.”

The legislation came into effect for very large online platforms and very large online search engines on August 25 this year, and will apply to all other entities on February 17, 2024. AliExpress, part of the Alibaba group, is considered a very large online platform in the context of the Act.

Given that designation, it will have to comply with the full set of provisions introduced by the DSA, including the assessment and mitigation of risks related to the dissemination of illegal and harmful content and any negative effects on the exercise of fundamental rights, said the Commission.

The current report by the US Trade Representative (USTR) on notorious markets for counterfeit and pirated goods included AliExpress as well as Alibaba’s social media platform WeChat, along with a host of other online platforms.

The report claims that Alibaba is known for anti-counterfeiting processes and systems that are among the best in the e-commere industry, in particular its significant support for law enforcement and brand owners’ investigations and enforcement actions against counterfeiters, but despite these efforts, rights holders say it lacks effective seller vetting and repeat infringer controls.

Those failings make AliExpress “a dominant upstream distributor of counterfeit goods in wholesale quantities for online markets in the United States and other countries,” according to the USTR.

Photo by on Unsplash

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