It has just become harder for American consumers to buy dangerous consumer products online.
China’s Alibaba Group, the world’s largest e-commerce company with more than 300 million users, has agreed to block the sale of recalled products to consumers located in the United States.
Alibaba’s agreement with the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the culmination of negotiations that began in November 2014. Eliminating online access to dangerous products has become a centerpiece of new CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye’s administration.
Initially, the CPSC will provide Alibaba with a list of up to 15 products that have been recalled in the United States, such as Buckyballs, a magnetic desk toy; the Nap Nanny Instant Recliner; and lawn darts. The list will then be added to as deemed necessary.
Other terms of the agreement include the Alibaba Group providing product safety information for American importers on company platforms and Alibaba will also create access points on its Business to Business (B2B) platform that take importers to the US safety standards for higher risk consumer products.
Chairman Kaye announced the collaboration while attending the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair. “With an increasing number of companies and consumers taking their business online, Alibaba’s decision to implement these new policies is a victory for U.S. consumers and their safety. The company’s forward leaning approach in this regard will help prevent dangerous and recalled products from being passed on to unsuspecting consumers.”
The agreement is completely voluntary and not legally enforceable. However, CPSC spokesman
Scott Wolfson told The Huffington Post that Chairman Kaye “will attempt to use his influence to make sure Alibaba fulfills their end of the agreement. They worked in good faith with us, so there’s a full understanding of what his expectations are.”
Chairman Kaye adds: “We’re not a very patient lot, and if it doesn’t happen pretty quickly, then they’ll be hearing from us. We’re certainly going to hold their feet to the fire.” Kaye also dismissed concerns in some quarters regarding the precedent of Internet regulation. “From my perspective, there’s enough known good that will result from this that if it turns out there are unfortunate side effects, we will try to work to ameliorate those.”Alibaba Group’s Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs.
“Chairman Kaye is a strong leader with an excellent track record of results in protecting U.S. consumers. We look forward to working collaboratively with the Chairman and his team to do everything possible to protect consumers.”
CPSC also works closely with other online market-places to protect the safety of U.S. consumers in the online marketplace.
During his visit to one of the world’s largest toy industry events, Kaye will speak Wednesday on the right of all consumers, regardless of where they live, “to have quality and safety built into the products they buy, especially when it comes to toys for their children. I believe this as a parent and as the principal consumer product safety regulator for the United States.”
Last November, Kaye made national headlines for urging certain online sites to take far greater responsibility for preventing the sale of dangerous, recalled consumer products on or through their sites.
In response to the agreement, Former CPSC Commissioner Nancy Noord discussed the growing phenomenon of e-commerce sales directly to consumers from foreign (Chinese) manufacturers.
“My concern is that the regulatory stance of the CPSC—asserting that a foreign manufacturer is legally responsible for compliance with all U.S. safety standards when a U.S. consumer buys a product directly from that manufacturer—is both naïve and unenforceable.”
Nevertheless, Noord offered kudos to Commissioner Kaye for persuading Alibaba to enter into a voluntary agreement, “as modest as it is.”
Noord observed the company’s agreement to make available information about safety requirements to importers into the United States is the most interesting aspect of the voluntary pact.
“U.S. safety requirements are not easily understood, especially those issued since 2009 in response to the CPSIA—see the labyrinthine regulations dealing with testing and certification for examples. Any way to get information to those who are honestly trying to comply can do nothing but help,” Noord added.