Combating dangerous products: A European e-commerce perspective

By Stephane Aumont, Head of Merchant Success, Rakuten France

At Rakuten, we take pride in keeping our consumers safe. This battle against dangerous products is a priority and we’d like to offer an update on our progress in Europe as we celebrate the recent annual Consumer Summit.

Rakuten France was one of the four original signers of the European Commission’s ambitious Product Safety Pledge. We regularly and proactively check for recalls on both the European Union’s Safety Gate and the French Consumer Protection website. We put in keywords to alert us against attempts to post dangerous products. In addition to our own internal actions, we cooperate with customs and other retailers to keep the marketplace safe. When customs blocks a product, we block it. If you run across a potentially dangerous product, it is easy to contact us here.

A few types of products are particularly sensitive. We pay particular attention to removing products such as clothing, shoes, cosmetics, jewelry or toys that may contain potentially harmful substances, as well as products with technical faults such as appliances that could emit electric shocks or present a fire hazard.

These measures have taken on special urgency since the COVID crisis erupted — in some cases, even becoming a question of life or death. From the beginning of the pandemic, our teams moved quickly to put in place evolving keyword filters to block problematic listings from reaching our platform. Our sales team worked on a day-to-day basis with our merchants to explain to them what can — and what cannot — be sold on our platform. We put keywords in place that automatically block listings from professional sellers related to gels, COVID tests and vaccines.

Product safety is only one way we try to protect our customers. For much of the past decade, Rakuten France has been part of a European memorandum of understanding to monitor counterfeits. It has proven to be a success in opening a constructive dialogue with brand owners.

During our work, several unfortunate misperceptions have squeezed their way into the online product safety debate. Some consumer groups claim that it is more unsafe to buy online than offline. That’s false. European Commission studies show that brick-and-mortar stores continue to sell the vast majority of unsafe products. Some 80.1% of consumer concerns about unsafe products “were linked to offline purchases,” compared to only 18.6% purchased online.

Of course, even a single dangerous product is one too many. The European Commission has played a positive role in the safety fight. It wants to enlarge the Product Safety Pledge, both by adding additional marketplaces and by bringing in national regulators and consumer groups. We support this initiative. The more information on dangerous products that we receive, the faster we can take them down. All of us must work together to ensure safety.

Stephane Aumont is the Head of Merchant Success for Rakuten France.

About the author: Stephane Aumont joined Rakuten in November 2010 as part of the Product Pages Validation team. For the past five years, Aumont has served as the Head of Merchant Success for Rakuten France. His team provides technical support on product pages and mass inventory integration from professional sellers. Aumont started his fight against dangerous products in late 2011 and has been part of product compliance ever since.

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