The e-commerce is continuously growing and new ways to organise online trade has evolved. The enforcement authorities must keep pace with this development and continue to include control and monitoring of e-commerce as part of their enforcement activities.
This project was a joint enforcement project for the market surveillance authorities within the Nordic Enforcement Group. The goal was to check the compliance level of e-commerce in the Nordic countries as well as collecting best practices to enhance our work regarding enforcement of e-commerce of consumer goods. We focused on three types of business models: marketplaces, dropshipping stores and web shops. The products were bought from companies located nationally, in other EU member states and in countries outside the EU/EEA. A total of 412 products were checked for substances regulated in the REACH regulation, the RoHS directive, the Toys directive or the POPs regulation.
The overall results showed that 152 (37%) of the products inspected were found to be non-compliant due to content of regulated substances above the restriction limit. When comparing the different types of e-commerce stores (marketplaces, dropshipping stores and web shops), the non-compliance rate was highest for the dropshipping stores, with a non-compliance rate as high as 70%. When a non-compliant product was found, the responsible actor for the product was contacted. Several of the dropshipping stores did not remove the non-compliant products even though they received notice to do so from the participating authorities.
The national enforcement authorities in this project consider dropshipping stores as responsible for the product safety of the products they are selling, either in the capacity of being importer or distributor. Dropshipping stores seem however to be unaware of their responsibility. This way of organising the trade needs to be explored further by the authorities. The Nordic enforcement group will look specifically into this issue in more detail in an upcoming project next year.
The results in this project confirm that products bought from outside the EU has a higher risk of non-compliance, as compared with the products bought from within the EU. The non-compliance rate for the non-EU companies was 66%. Products from non-EU countries which are sent directly to the consumers are difficult for the national authorities to control. The national authorities lack powers to demand correction from actors outside the EU. The marketplaces and dropshipping stores need to strengthen their proactive work. The national authorities need to explore further the possibility for enforcement within the new Market Surveillance Regulation ((EU) 2019/1020) and also, future requirements in the Digital Services Act ((EU) 2022/2065) and in the General Product Safety Regulation ((EU) 2023/988). These new regulations will hopefully put pressure on the actors and contribute to improved legal compliance.