A new legislative initiative is brought forward in Germany by the state of Bavaria via the Bundesrat, with the aim of combating the Internet trade in counterfeits more vigorously. Among others, the focus is on proposals to make e-commerce platforms more accountable.

With a new legislative initiative in the German federal council Bundesrat, the Bavarian state government wants to push back trade in illegal or counterfeit products via the Internet and protect local dealers and brand manufacturers from illegal competition. “Some medium-sized retailers, whether stationary or online, cannot withstand this unfair competitive pressure for much longer,” said a spokeswoman for the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The motion (Drs. 345/19) calls on the German government to improve market surveillance in eCommerce. It also focuses on measures to increase the liability of online marketplaces for counterfeit trade: Accordingly, platforms based in Europe – including well-known portals such as Amazon and eBay – are to be held liable if illegal goods are sold on their sites. This should also apply for traders coming from outside the EU that sell via one of the platforms based in Europe. The online marketplaces should also take partial responsibility for ensuring that all third-party traders have provided information on their identity and place of business.

In addition, the legislative initiative encourages a review of the world postal system. So far, the so-called Treaty of Bern has made it possible for counterfeiters based in China to deliver illegal goods onto the European markets at very low shipping costs. The new initiative now calls to “no longer give inappropriate privileges to commercial supplies from export-strong third countries compared to intra-European shipments”, according to the explanations of the law proposal.

Finally, the proposal also calls on the German government to support modern systems for market surveillance, such as the use of artificial intelligence.

While the new motion is now being discussed, the German trade association Handelsverband Deutschland (HDE) voiced its criticism of the current actions against illegal e-commerce: “The state has surrendered to online trade from third countries! It has de facto refrained from enforcing valid laws (tax, environment, trademark law, consumer protection, etc.)”, explained Deputy Managing Director of HDE Stephan Tromp in an online article at the beginning of September.

Sources: Bundesrat, HDE, Süddeutsche Zeitung