AliExpress is first online marketplace to face DSA investigation by EU

AliExpress is first online marketplace to face DSA investigation by EU

The European Union has opened its third formal investigation of a very large platform under the Digital Services Act (DSA), with China’s AliExpress earning itself the dubious honor of being the first online marketplace to face formal probe by the Commission.

The DSA is the bloc’s rebooted ecommerce rules which demand risk assessments and mitigations by larger platforms which face tough penalties (of up to 6% of global annual turnover) for violations.

Social media platforms X and TikTok are the two other very large online platforms (VLOPs) already under formal DSA investigation (since December and February, respectively). Those probes remain ongoing.

In a press release announcing the formal proceeding on AliExpress, the Commission says it suspects the marketplace of breaching DSA rules in areas linked to the management and mitigation of risks; content moderation and its internal complaint handling mechanism; the transparency of advertising and recommender systems; and the traceability of traders and to data access for researchers.

AliExpress was designated a VLOP back in April last year, alongside other marketplaces, including Amazon and Zalando.

The safety of ecommerce marketplaces is one of a handful of enforcement priorities for the Commission, along with illegal hate speech, child protection and election security.

In a background briefing with journalists Thursday, a Commission official said concerns about AliExpress cover areas such as non-compliant medicines, foods; and child safety risks related to the distribution of pornography and to the sale of toys.

They said it will also look into transparency and safety concerns related to influencers’ use of AliExpress. The platform offers an affiliate program aimed at social media influencers who can earn a commission through links to goods being sold on the platform. The Commission said it suspects some of this activity is leading to the sale of non-compliant — and potentially dangerous or otherwise risky — products.

It said it will also investigate how the program is implemented to verify whether it complies with DSA transparency rules.

The full list of suspected breaches by AliExpress is long: Running to ten articles (Articles 16, 20, 26, 27, 30, 34, 35, 38, 39 and 40).

However today’s proceeding does not confirm any violations of the DSA as yet. Rather it means the Commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation “as a matter of priority”. The formal step unlocks additional powers for the EU — including the ability to impose interim measures. There’s no fixed timeline for concluding a DSA investigation.

Alibaba, AliExpress’ parent company, was contacted for comment.

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