EU requests information from Chinese online sales site over fake medicines

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The EU executive has sent a request for information from the Chinese site as part of its investigative powers under the Digital Services Act (DSA).


The European Commission has one formal request for information to the Chinese e-commerce website AliExpress about the measures it is taking to protect consumers from illegal products, such as the online sale of counterfeit medicines.

AliExpress, owned by Chinese tech giant Alibaba, must respond by November 27 or face an investigation.

The European Commission could impose a fine for “incorrect, incomplete or misleading information” regarding the request.

AliExpress is considered a “very large online platform” under the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which came into effect for these platforms in August.

It means that the company is subject to new requirements aimed at protecting online users.

“The Digital Services Act is not just about hate speech, disinformation and cyberbullying,” Thierry Breton, EU Internal Market Commissioner, said in a statement.

“It is also there to ensure that illegal or unsafe products sold in the EU via e-commerce platforms are removed, including the growing number of counterfeit and potentially life-threatening medicines and pharmaceuticals sold online,” he added to.

The European Commission has also sent formal requests to TikTok, Meta and X (formerly Twitter) for spreading disinformation and illegal or violent content.

Failure to comply with the new EU rules carries high fines commensurate with the size of the company.

Platforms labeled as ‘very large’, meaning they have at least 45 million monthly active users (10 percent of the EU population), could be fined up to six percent of their global turnover.

The European Commission could also place the platform under increased supervision or, as a “last resort,” ask judges to ban the platform from the bloc.

So far, the EU has designated 19 companies as very large online platforms or search engines.

Fake medicines on online markets

A 2022 report from the EU Intellectual Property Office and Europol said counterfeit pharmaceutical products have shifted from physical to online markets, with an “increasingly wider range of medicines”.

Counterfeit and pirated goods imported into the bloc have an estimated value of €119 billion, the report said.

Patients in Austria and Great Britain were recently hospitalized with serious side effects after taking counterfeit weight loss drugs, with regulators warning doctors to verify the source of supply if it is not from legal pharmacies.

Pursuant to the Digital Services Act online marketplaces must identify traders selling products to better protect consumers from illegal products.

They are also required to notify consumers who have purchased a product as soon as the company becomes aware of its illegality, and to conduct random checks on product documentation.

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