Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.-owned online marketplace AliExpress Ltd. on May 17 said it is prepared to comply with EU consumer regulations following a call by a European advocacy group for national authorities to investigate "problematic contract terms and practices."
"As a third-party online marketplace, AliExpress connects consumers and merchants around the world. We respect and endeavor to comply with all applicable rules and regulations in the markets in which we operate," said an AliExpress spokesperson in a statement to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
"We also respect the rights of consumers and we are paying close attention to these concerns. We will study the complaint carefully when we receive it and are ready to engage in discussions with the Commission and all relevant authorities," the spokesperson added.
AliExpress is one of Alibaba's marketplaces for Chinese merchants to sell to an international audience. Starting from 2019, the platform began giving access to merchants from Spain, Italy, Russia and Turkey to sell to international buyers.
The call of action issued by the European Consumer Organisation, known by the French-language acronym BEUC, on May 17 urged consumer bodies in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain to act against AliExpress for its failure to comply with EU consumer regulations.
The statement by BEUC alleged a number of issues of noncompliance and irregularities on the marketplace, such as a clause that refers a dispute between a consumer and buyer to a Hong Kong arbitration court. EU law states that consumers have a right to take the case to a court in their own country.
Other issues raised include a nonreturn policy without any justification within 14 days, as well as unclear information on the AliExpress site. The move by BEUC came after a Luxembourg consumer group Union Luxembourgeoise des Consommateurs became the first consumer body in the EU to file a complaint against AliExpress with its national consumer protection authority.
BEUC said that AliExpress, which is available in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish, as well as its English global site, has a potential reach of 330 million consumers in the EU.
"If Alibaba targets consumers in the EU market, it has no choice but to respect EU consumer rules. If it does not, it's up to national authorities to step in and make it comply," said Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC. "We call on the consumer protection authorities to look urgently into this issue and to take action. Online platforms linking sellers from outside Europe are more and more popular, but respecting consumer rights is not negotiable."