The European Commission is raising its voice against AliExpress. Brussels opened a “formal investigation” targeting the Chinese e-commerce giant on Thursday. The Alibaba subsidiary is suspected of not having respected its obligations in the fight against the sale of dangerous products. Among the products concerned are fake medicines, suspicious toys as well as food supplements deemed dangerous for consumer safety. Brussels also accuses AliExpress of having left pornographic content on its platform, and of not having prevented influencers from promoting illegal or dangerous products.

The European Commission sent a request for information to AliExpress at the beginning of November. Based on the preliminary investigation, it decided to open a formal procedure under the new Digital Services Regulation (DSA), intended to better protect consumers, according to a European source. “The DSA does not only target hatred, disinformation and cyberharassment,” says Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market. It is also responsible for ensuring the withdrawal of illegal or dangerous products sold within the European Union via e-commerce platforms. This is not negotiable when we want to operate in the European Single Market. As a platform with over 100 million users in Europe, AliExpress must fully comply with the DSA and take appropriate measures.”

With 104.3 million customers in Europe, AliExpress is, in fact, one of the very large platforms subject to the DSA. As such, it had until the end of August 2023 to comply with the obligations of the text. The success of the e-retailer has continued to grow in recent years on the Old Continent. For five years, it has stepped up the pace in Europe with its low-priced products sold by both major brands and local traders. It has also strengthened its logistical capacities. But its dominance is now being challenged by its compatriots Temu and Shein who continue to gain ground.

The entry into force of the DSA changed the rules of the game with platforms and gave new powers to the European Commission. This is the third time since the entry into force of the text that Brussels has launched an investigation, after X (formerly Twitter) on December 18, suspected of not sufficiently fighting disinformation, and TikTok on February 19, for alleged breaches of its obligations to protect minors. Beyond AliExpress, Brussels is tightening the screws against the large platforms. The social network LinkedIn was also the subject of an investigation this Thursday. Finally, the European Commission asked eight platforms (Google Search, Bing, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Youtube, X) to demonstrate their efforts in the fight against “deep fakes”. Three months before the European elections, Brussels intends to increase the pressure on the platforms to avoid abuses.