France fires warning shot on Amazon and Alibaba ahead of Black Friday – POLITICO
PARIS – France has pulled out the big guns and deregistered the American online marketplace Wish over unsafe products, a European first that shows that Paris is serious when it comes to cracking down on e-commerce sites.
The government announced Wednesday that the California platform would be removed from search engines and app stores for flouting consumer protection rules.
According to the French Minister of the Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, this decision is also a message for other technology companies.
“This is part of a broader policy that I have been pursuing for four years: digital technology is not above the law”, he said radio franceinfo. “The tech giants, the online websites that don’t have a physical presence, are not above the law.”
The movement of France – announced with fanfare in the local press by no less than three ministers – comes a few days before Black Friday and the start of the holiday season, one of the most lucrative times of the year for online marketplaces. In France, the e-commerce market was value around 112 billion euros in 2020.
It also comes amid a flurry of new EU initiatives to force online marketplaces to ensure the safety of their products, which Paris has actively encouraged. They would impact a much wider range of online platforms, including Amazon, Alibaba’s AliExpress, eBay, and local players like CDiscount.
In early 2020, a European-wide study conducted by the BEUC consumer group on Amazon, AliExpress, eBay and Wish find two-thirds of the 250 products sold online have failed security tests.
France is expected to take the head of the EU Council in January and Le Maire said on Wednesday that consumer protection would be a priority.
Wish – an e-commerce site known for selling inexpensive gadgets and jewelry – is the sixth most visited e-commerce site, according to Médiamétrie market and audience research group. In recent months, the Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Fight against Fraud (DGCCRF) has tested around 140 products on the platform.
The analysis showed that around 95% of toys and electrical products did not comply with EU rules, concluding that 45% and 90% respectively were in fact ‘dangerous’. The withdrawal and recall practices of products from the platform are not satisfactory either, concluded the DGCCRF.
In July, the state agency ordered Wish to comply with the legislation. But, in the face of silence, he decided to use for the first time new powers allowing national authorities to ask search engines such as Microsoft’s Google and Bing and app stores like Apple to remove both the website and its mobile application.
The next step, Le Maire warned, would be a total ban on French territory if the platform does not comply “in the coming weeks”.
A spokesperson for Wish stated that the platform “still complies with the DGCCRF’s removal requests and is, therefore, puzzled by the over-approach to this issue. We have repeatedly tried to engage constructively with the DGCCRF. ” The spokesperson added that the company “is actively pursuing legal recourse” against Wednesday’s action.
Wish has had a target on his back since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In March 2020, the Minister of Digital Cédric O explicitly called consumers to “avoid” buying on the platform, where fake coronavirus remedies, expired masks and overpriced disinfectant gel could be found online.
But Wednesday’s decision will be heard by other e-commerce companies like Amazon and Alibaba, showing how France has made protecting online consumers a priority in Paris and Brussels.
It’s also a warning to companies that refuse to engage with government, regulators and state agencies – something online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay are improving, according to DGCCRF. Annual Report on product safety.
Since 2018, the agency has carried out annual checks on goods sold on online marketplaces. In October, the agency released results for 2020, which showed that out of 129 products tested on the top 10 e-commerce platforms in France, more than 60% did not comply with consumer protection rules, including 32 % that were really dangerous.
The DGCCRF did not name the platforms, but classification of the most visited websites last year shows Amazon, CDiscount, Wish, and eBay in the top 10.
In the capital of the EU too, France has become a sort of champion of product safety.
Paris is pushing for more obligations for online marketplaces in two pieces of legislation: the EU’s draft content moderation law, known as the digital services law, and the General Product Safety Regulations. Paris too demand for the The European Commission’s commitment to product safety – a voluntary charter signed by around ten online marketplaces – to become compulsory.
“The law on digital services, currently under negotiation, will considerably strengthen the obligations of marketplaces in terms of consumer protection and information,” O.
France hopes to conclude the interinstitutional negotiations under its EU presidency. The Commission’s initial proposal for the Digital Services Act was somewhat light-hearted on e-commerce websites, and Paris helped add more restraints for companies like Amazon, AliExpress, and eBay. The DGCCRF itself was closely involved in drafting the proposals, according to EU officials working on the text.
An Amazon spokesperson said safety and legal compliance were a “top priority” for the company, which said it has invested more than $ 700 million to protect consumers.
“We work regularly with the relevant authorities and the information we share helps identify trends, develop regulations and determine whether specific actions, such as a recall, are warranted. When a recall is warranted, we quickly inform our customers, ”added the spokesperson.
Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.