Amazon’s next in line for EU scrutiny of product risks and user rights

Ecommerce behemoth Amazon has joined a growing list of tech giants that have received formal requests for information (RFIs) from European Union regulators overseeing the bloc’s rebooted digital rulebook, the Digital Services Act (DSA).

The European Commission said today It asked Amazon to provide it with more information on the steps taken to fulfill DSA obligations related to risk assessments and mitigation measures to protect consumers online — especially the dissemination of illegal product and protection of fundamental rights, as well as in relation to its recommendation systems.

The DSA was implemented in late August for 19 large platforms (aka very large online platforms, or VLOPs; and very large online search engines, or VLOSEs), triggering reporting requirements of this – which has led to the tech giants publishing various data -points related to regional usage.

As DSA sets out a widespread application of the management framework for digital services (or when it comes to wider application early next year) this subset of larger platforms (VLOPs/VLOSEs) is expected to comply with the law – including a range of additional obligations aimed at driving transparency and accountability to them, such as in areas such as their use of algorithms for sorting and surfing content .

A related provision of the DSA requires VLOPs to provide users with an opt-out of profiling-based recommendations – meaning they can choose to see recommended products that are not selected based on to track and profile their activity on the platform.

The regulation also places requirements on platforms to provide information to customers and other users regarding the sale of illegal goods if they become aware of such transactions.

EU regulators followed the platforms first disclosure of the DSA by sending several VLOPs formal requests for information (or RFIs), seeking more information on how they fulfill their DSA obligations. In recent weeks AliExpressMeta, Snap, TikTok, YouTube and X have all received RFIs from the Commission.

As we reported last week, three first priority areas quickly emerged from the EU’s management of VLOPs: First the Commission focuses on how the platforms respond to the Middle East crisis caused by the war of Israel-Hamas, which led to the RFIs. sent to the main social media services; its second focus is child safety, where concerns have also prompted many requests to mainstream social media services; and finally the risks to ecommerce in the run up to the holiday season are apparently on the Commission’s radar, too – so this latest RFI to Amazon asks for more detail about the steps it’s taking in relation to illegal sales things.

This follows an earlier request by China’s ecommerce giant, AliExpress, which clearly referred to “counterfeit drugs” in relation to concerns about the distribution of illegal products.

Amazon was contacted for a response to the Commission’s RFI.

The ecommerce giant was named as a VLOP under the DSA in April but has since challenged the designation. Its legal challenge continues but in September Amazon won an interim stay on compliance with a DSA requirement on VLOPs to provide a public ad archive, with the court agreeing to suspend the obligation pending in consequence of the wider challenge to its status as a very large online platform.

However, the EU General Court did not agree to suspend another requirement of Amazon’s DSA, which requires VLOPs to give users a non-profile-based option for the recommendations they serve. It is therefore interesting to note that the Commission’s RFI clearly mentions Amazon’s recommendation systems, as well as referring to broader obligations related to the protection of fundamental rights.

The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the DSA in VLOPS/VLOSE. If it confirms regulatory violations it is also empowered to impose sanctions, including fines of up to 6% of global annual turnover.

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