The European Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (Fesi) is urging the operators of internet platforms to undertake “due diligence obligations for preventive and proactive measures” to fight against the sale of illegal products online, while expressing strong support for the efforts being made by the European Commission to obtain the member states’ approval of its long-awaited Digital Services Act (DSA).
In a statement made in connection with the endorsement of a report on the DSA by the European Parliament on Oct. 21, Fesi also called for a simplification and harmonization of the related notice and takedown procedures as well as the introduction of new transparency and information requirements for online marketplaces. It asked for an optimized use of technologies and a strengthened information-sharing process with the rights holders.
Fesi said that the Parliament had sent a strong signal to the Commission by introducing for the first time the “Know Your Business Consumer Principle” at the European level, making it mandatory for platforms to check and stop fraudulent companies from using their services to sell any of their illegal and unsafe products over the internet.
Asked by us to comment on the issue, Jochen Schäfer, who is the attorney for Fesi and the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI), noted that Amazon had claimed in March 2019 that it wanted to bring down to zero the number of illegal offerings on its platform in the near future, but is in reality far from reaching this goal.
Amazon then required the mandatory participation of the brands and rights holders, but Schäfer pointed out that this concept has been criticized as a sort of “Trojan horse.” Whatever their claims, there is no legal obligation for platform operators to be proactive in starting to “fight efficiently this plague,” he said.
As a matter of fact, the presence of fakes on the web is constantly increasing, says Fesi, citing figures according to which the European sporting goods industry is losing an estimated €1.1 billion and 6,579 jobs every year from counterfeiting. Beyond the significant economic impact, “consumer health and safety is also at stake, due to the poor quality and lack of compliance with any standards,” commented Jérôme Pero, secretary general of Fesi, adding that the destruction of the fakes that are eventually tracked down causes damage to the environment.
The offering of counterfeit products over the internet reportedly increased during the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak. According to experts, organized crime and terrorist groups are partly behind such illegal activities.
While welcoming and supporting Fesi’s statements, Schäfer said he feels that the sporting goods industry cannot rely solely on the public sector to solve the problem. Collective industry initiatives conducted with the help of specialized service providers and enforcement specialists can provide faster and more convincing solutions with the help of more modern technologies, he said. He pointed, for example, to the training of customs authorities in numerous countries as one of the projects recently implemented under WFSGI’s umbrella.