France orders removal of e-commerce giant Wish over safety concerns

"This decision illustrates the government's action to protect consumers and effectively fight against unfair competition from economic operators [who] flout product safety regulations," said Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire. [XanderSt/Shutterstock]

The French government ordered on Wednesday (24 November) search engines and app stores to delist the US e-commerce platform Wish on the grounds that the online retail platform was “flouting product safety regulations”. EURACTIV France reports.

A few days before Black Friday and a month before the Christmas holidays, France’s Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) is taking a hard line.

Wish will soon no longer appear in the results pages of Google or Bing, for example, nor in the list of apps in the App Store or Play Store. Although the site can still be accessed by typing the URL directly in the browser bar, not appearing in search engines or app stores is a clear blow to the platform’s visibility online.

“The dereferencing of Wish offers from search engines and that of its app considerably reduces the risk of a consumer stumbling upon offers of dangerous products on its site,” explained French Secretary of State for Digital, Cédric O.

Non-compliant and dangerous products

The government’s decision follows a sampling campaign by the DGCCRF, which revealed a large number of non-compliant and dangerous products being sold on the platform.

The government was particularly concerned by the findings related to certain product families. Of the toys and electrical devices inspected, 95% were found to be non-compliant, with 45% of the toys and 90% of the appliances deemed dangerous.

The enquiry also showed that Wish did not “satisfactorily” comply with its obligations as a distributor, in terms of product withdrawals and recalls.

For example, although offers of products reported as dangerous were withdrawn within 24 hours “in a majority of cases”, they were still offered on the platform but under a different name, and sometimes even from the same seller.

In July, the DGCCRF gave Wish two months to comply with its obligations but it failed to do so, which resulted in the government delisting the platform.

“This decision illustrates the government’s action to protect consumers and effectively fight against unfair competition from economic operators [who] flout product safety regulations,” said Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire.

France is fighting “to apply the same rules in physical shops as in online shops”, Le Maire also said, adding that this will be one of France’s priorities when it takes over the rotating EU Council presidency for six months in January.

O spoke of how important the issue is at the EU level, noting that the Digital Services Act (DSA) should “considerably strengthen the obligations of marketplaces in terms of consumer protection and information.”

“Either it complies with consumer protection rules, or we will go even further and move from dereferencing to banning the site on French territory,” Le Maire told radio broadcaster Franceinfo, insisting that digital players should not be above the law.

Wish has not yet responded to EURACTIV’s requests for comments.

DSA: EU ambassadors reach agreement to start interinstitutional negotiations

Representatives of EU countries endorsed a key piece of digital legislation, the Digital Services Act, on Wednesday, confirming proposals for a 24-hour deadline for removal of illegal content, liability provisions for online marketplaces and centralised enforcement for very large online platforms.

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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