Italian Competition Authority blocks access to 174 websites selling counterfeit products

Notice and action: Italian Competition Authority blocks access to 174 websites selling counterfeit products

On 16 March 2016, the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) issued orders to block access from the Italian territory to 174 websites selling counterfeit products. The investigation was started after a consumer association and a trader association representing famous brand companies filed complaints showing that the products sold on a high number of websites were not original. The products concerned were: a) famous brand sunglasses, some of them not meeting the health security standards concerning filtering UV rays; b) shoes branded Nike, Timberland, Fendi, Gucci, Michael Kors, for children too, whose samples imported from China showed the presence of a cancer-causing substance (hexavalent chrome); c) clothing items of famous brands for which highly health damaging chemicals were used for dyeing; d) costume jewelry and high fashion watches (Tiffany, Gucci, Fendi, Michael Kors), presented as made of silver while actually made of a copper/zinc alloy covered by nickel, a mixture that can cause allergies and burns.

Consumers were misled by the structure of the sites which mimicked the original ones with logos and images, pretending to be authorized sellers of those brand products and offering big discounts from official prices. At the same time, those websites did not provide to consumers any information about their rights on guarantees and withdrawal.

The AGCM then opened 6 proceedings against the owners and registrants of websites; all traders are located outside the European Union. The alleged unfair commercial practices concerned misleading information on the characteristics of the product, the identity of the trader, displaying a trust mark without being authorized and promoting a product similar to the product of other manufacturers so to mislead the consumer, allegedly infringing article 5, 6,7 and provisions  3 and 13 of Annex I of the UCPD, as well as infringing article 6 of the CRD for omitting the trader’s identity and its geographical address and the consumers’ rights. Since parties did not reply to allegations and given the high and immediate risk for consumers who shopped on those websites, the Italian Competition Authority issued interim measures, by ordering traders to suspend within two days all activities on the websites. Since traders did not comply with the order, the AGCM, being a competent administrative authority as under articles 14(3), 15(2) and 16(3) of the E-commerce Directive nr 2000/31/EC as transposed into Italian law, through the Italian Finance Police (Guardia di Finanza) required Italian internet service providers to suspend the infringement by blocking the access to those websites from the Italian territory. Italian consumers are now redirected to other webpages informing them of AGCM’s order.  

The text in Italian of the press release with the link to the full text of the interim decisions can be found on AGCM’s website: