Counterfeit and illegal sellers to be targeted in Digital Services Act, Vestager says

European Union Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager. [EPA-EFE/KENZO TRIBOUILLARD]

A crackdown on the sale of counterfeit and illegal goods across online platforms is likely to feature in the European Commission’s upcoming Digital Services Act plans, the EU’s Vice-President for Digital Affairs, Margrethe Vestager has said.

The Digital Services Act (DSA) is the EU’s ambitious bid to regulate the online ecosystem across a range of areas such as political advertising and offensive content. It is due to be presented by the Commission before the end of the year.

Speaking as part of an online event on Friday (July 3), Vestager noted how the package of reforms may include a clampdown on the sale of counterfeit and illegal goods online, and by extension, an obligation for platforms to better identify their sellers.

Referring to a recent study on the sale of unsafe children’s toys online, Vestager said that online shoppers should be able to trust vendors who they buy from online, just as they would in the physical world.

“Any consumer who enters a shop on a main street would of course expect that the toys are perfectly safe,” she said, delivering the closing statement on Forum Europe’s week of events focussed on the Digital Services Act.

“And that, of course, is what is needed also when shopping online, that we can trust the people with whom we shop, that the products are safe and that there are no counterfeits.”

In order to mitigate the risks in this context, Vestager said platforms could be forced to ensure that the identity of sellers can be verified.

Platforms “need to be better at identifying those who are selling on their marketplaces,” Vestager said. “It is ridiculous that a trader that has been caught selling illegal products can disappear into thin air and sign up under a different name just a few minutes later,” she added.

“Platforms need to act much more rigorously against illegal products and services offered on their platforms,” she insisted.

Meanwhile, responses have been coming in thick and fast to the Commission’s pubic consultations on the Digital Services Act, which seeks to gather responses across six areas including on online safety, liability, market dominance, online advertising and smart contracts, issues surrounding self-employment online, and the potential future governance framework for online services.

The feedback period for the consultations is open until September 9.

Interoperability

Stakeholders have been seeking to raise their voices ahead of the September deadline, with the plans being subjected to heavy lobbying from industry players and civil society groups alike.

Today (6 July), a coalition of rights representatives and industry associations have written to Vestager, highlighting their wish for ex-ante ​interoperability requirements to feature as part of the DSA.

Introducing interoperability requirements would mean that rival platforms may have to make technical revisions to their systems so as to ensure that users can communicate and connect with each other across different services.

“We urge you to include specific measures requiring interoperability of Internet platforms in the forthcoming Digital Services Act package, as part of the ex-ante rules to increase competition by decreasing the gatekeeping power of incumbents,” the letter, signed by groups including  European Digital Rights (EDRi), the European DIGITAL SME Alliance, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes.

It adds that in this vein, there should be a “particular focus on social media and messaging providers.”

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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