AliExpress has improved, on its European websites, the presentation of the information for consumers regarding their rights, and it has brought that information in line with EU consumer law. This has been the result of actions taken by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), which were prompted, in part, by a request made by the Dutch Consumers’ Association (in Dutch: Consumentenbond). In this case , ACM worked together with the European Commission, and other European consumer authorities were kept informed regularly. AliExpress is a large Chinese platform that offers products to European consumers online.
Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “Consumers buy more and more products online, including from businesses that are registered outside of the EU. If those businesses target European consumers, they will have to comply with the same rules as other providers within the EU. This ensures that consumers are able to navigate online markets with confidence. It also ensures that those businesses play by the same rules when competing with other providers. With this result, we help solve the problems that the joint European consumers’ associations have identified.”
What changes has AliExpress implemented?
Going forward, AliExpress will inform consumers more clearly about the following aspects:
- The cooling-off period (the right of withdrawal): consumers have the right to cancel purchases within 14 days after having received the goods and without providing a reason, as well as the right to return the goods within 14 days after cancellation;
- Legal guarantees: EU rules regarding guarantees must be indicated, and complied with;
- Extra costs: it must be indicated whether any taxes or other fees need to be paid, for example customs duties at the border;
- Sellers: information must be provided about the identity of the seller.
- Ranking: it must be indicated whether payments have been made in order for a seller to appear higher in the search results.
- General terms and conditions: these no longer violate the relevant laws;
- Complaints: information must be provided about where consumers can turn to if they have any complaints or disputes (no longer the Court of First Instance in Hong Kong, but in the consumer’s own country).
The arrangements with AliExpress were made over the past few months, and the adjustments have already been implemented. The general terms and conditions will be made easier-to-read and easier-to-spot for EU customers by 1 May 2021 at the latest.
In this case, ACM worked together with the European Commission, while keeping other European consumer authorities regularly informed. The results apply EU-wide.
The digital economy and online misleading practices
Dutch society is undergoing fundamental changes as a result of digitalization. Businesses offer online products and services that are now part of our daily lives. Digitalization produces enormous benefits and innovation, but it also carries risks. People and businesses should be protected against the risks of digitalization. The digital economy is one of the key priorities on the 2020-2021 ACM Agenda. ACM recently published guidelines about online misleading practices, in which ACM explained at what point persuasion of consumers turns into misleading behavior. These commitments are in line with these guidelines and the rules of thumb for online platforms.