Going the Extra Kilometer for Product Safety in Europe

By Benjamin Moutte-Caruel, Director of Legal & Government Affairs at Rakuten France.

Five years ago, Rakuten France was one of the four pioneers who signed the European Commission’s ambitious Product Safety Pledge, reflecting our desire to protect consumers from buying dangerous goods. This month, we took the next step with the European authorities and signed up for an expanded and enriched pledge: the Product Safety Pledge Plus.  The signing ceremony took place in Brussels, in the presence of the 11 other members. It was also an opportunity to meet with European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders.

These businesses “have chosen to go the extra mile to protect consumers from dangerous products sold online,” Commissioner Reynders told us. “These companies are leading by example.”

At Rakuten France, our team prioritizes keeping consumers safe. 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. We also work with customs; if they block a product, we block it too. Finally, we severely sanction repeated infringers, unsubscribing them from our services.

The expanded pledge will help us intensify our efforts.  Some consumer groups claim that it is more unsafe to buy products online rather than offline. That’s false. European Commission studies show that the vast majority of unsafe products are actually sold in brick-and-mortar stores. Additionally, the new pledge includes a pilot project with two consumer groups: BEUC and Euroconsumers.

European Commission studies have shown that it is safer to buy products online rather than offline.
European Commission studies have shown that it is safer to buy products online rather than offline.

Another challenge is improving the quality of official notifications. We still receive too many notices that are incomplete and lacking batch and model numbers. It is important that we work with European authorities to make sure that we can identify the products found to be dangerous.

A few types of products are particularly sensitive. Cosmetics, jewelry or toys may contain potentially harmful substances. By working with consumer groups and the European authorities, we hope to learn about and target these particularly dangerous products.

Product safety is only one way we try to protect our customers. We have also been taking the lead in fighting counterfeits for more than a decade, both at national and European levels. Rakuten France has been part of a European memorandum of understanding to protect intellectual property. It has proven to be a success in opening a constructive dialogue with various brand owners of different types ranging from footwear, luxury or even electronic.

It was great to be in Brussels and meet the stakeholders involved in this important project. The success and efficiency of this extended Pledge depends upon the efforts made by all those involved. At Rakuten France, we intend to live up to our commitments to always ensure more trust and safety.

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