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The EU Plans to Update its Ecommerce Regulations

The EU adopted the Ecommerce Directive in 2000. This law has been the model for many African regulations including SA’s Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECTA). Now the EU is working on revising its Directive.  A major issue for consumers is counterfeit or illegal goods which fail to reach EU safety standards. For example, of the counterfeit products registered in the Commission’s database, 97% were found to pose a risk for health and safety – and 80% were products destined for use by children. Counterfeit or fake goods range from chewing gum, stock cubes, shampoo, lightbulbs to the highest-priced luxury items. They encompass everything from medicines to shoes, from toys to lipstick. They target all groups in society: children, adults, the elderly, and in all countries. The EUIPO and OECD estimate that the trade in counterfeit goods accounts for 6.8% of all EU imports, growing at a global level by over 30% in the period of 2013-2016 alone. In the EU, this translates to a sum of 121 billion EUR a year. That is larger than the GDP of the 11 smallest EU countries. It is significant in terms of lost revenues in jobs, taxes and duties.

The situation leads the European Commission in 2018 to sign a voluntary pledge with Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Rakuten, Allegro and Cdiscount to guarantee the safety of non-food consumer products offered by third-party sellers.  The platforms promise to remove the listings of flagged dangerous items within two days. They also vowed to act against repeat offenders offering dangerous products and take measures to prevent the reappearance of dangerous listings. Amazon, for example, has said it uses automated algorithms to review product pages and customer reviews. However, consumer groups say these voluntary measures are nowhere near enough, and platforms are not holding up their end of the bargain. Now the EU has stated that e-platforms could also face more stringent liability rules through the upcoming Digital Services Directive which will set rules for how platforms to police content.

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Alastair Tempest

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