Measures against counterfeiting on the Internet could be included in the European Union’s planned Digital Services Act. The forthcoming directive could in particular hold e-commerce marketplaces much more accountable.

The European Union’s planned, comprehensive Digital Services Act (DSA) could also include a set of measures to fight counterfeiting, said Margrethe Vestager, Vice President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner for Competition and Digital Affairs, in a speech at the Europe Forum in early June. According to this, the aim of the EU Commission is to ensure the legitimacy and safety of products online, just as in stationary trade.

Specifically, online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba could be required to take stronger action against illegal products offered on their platforms. The focus could be on measures to improve the identification, verification, and monitoring of third-party traders on online marketplaces. “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”, said Vestager according to media reports. In addition, an obligation to cooperate more closely with law enforcement authorities might be a potential measure to apprehend the perpetrators of these criminal activities. Decisions on delisted content should be made transparent to prevent legitimate offers from being removed, as well.

The planned Digital Services Act is intended to regulate the online ecosystem in Europe and to replace the so-called directive on electronic commerce (Directive 2000/31/EC). This had been introduced in 2000 and could no longer cover the processes taking place online. This had again been demonstrated by the coronavirus pandemic, said Vestager. Online shops were currently used increasingly; at the same time, there had been a rise in manipulative and illegal offers. Specifically, Vestager referred to a recent study from the United Kingdom which examined toys traded online: According to this study, 58 percent of the toys tested would not have been legally allowed for sale in the EU as they did not meet EU safety standards. “This is unacceptable. Consumers shopping on high street stores would not think twice whether the toys they see on the shelves are dangerous”, said Vestager. “We need to have the same trust when shopping online”, she continued.

Brand associations praise the EU Commission’s plans and call for effective anti-counterfeiting measures to be included in the directive, which is planned for the end of the year. “With the so-called Digital Services Act, it can oblige online platforms to proactively filter counterfeits. This is an effective way to protect consumers”, says Christian Köhler of the German Markenverband. The European trademark association AIM praises the plans as well and identifies four areas that can contribute to protecting consumers: proactive screening, identifying sellers, transparency and sharing information on illegal products, and removing illegal offers and informing consumers quickly.

Sources: Euractiv, Securing Industry, Markenverband, AIM