On the 23rd of November 2021, the French Department of Economy and Finance ordered the dereference of the US online sales platform “Wish” from search engines. This decision was issued after an investigation conducted by the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF) on a line of goods sold by the online platform. This investigation revealed a high percentage of non-compliant and hazardous products.
It appeared that 95% of all the surveyed electronic devices were non-compliant and 90% of them were hazardous. Therefore, the DGCCRF ordered Wish to comply with the applicable regulation on the 15th of July. However, as this injunction did not receive a satisfactory response, the website as well as the mobile application were dereferenced from search engines at the request of the department of the French Ministry of Economy and Finance.
The dereference of Wish from search engines was issued in compliance with article L. 521-3-1 of the French Consumer Code. Under this article, any competent agent is allowed to order the dereference of «online interfaces whose content are manifestly illegal».
According to the online platform Wish, this measure was disproportionate as it undermined its image and reputation and caused detrimental financial consequences to the company. However, it should be noted that the effectiveness of the decision remains relative because the dereference only applies in France. With a few clicks, it is often sufficient to change the settings of your browser, such as Google, to locate yourself in a different region.
Moreover, as of December 28, 2021, we note that the first two results of the Google search engine reveal a Google Play page to download the Wish app as well as the company’s Facebook page.
Finally, the website is of course directly accessible via its web address.
Unlike website blocking, dereferencing does not prevent access to a website. But in theory, it makes it more difficult to access it because you have to type the entire URL to access it, instead of just entering the name of the online marketplace in a search engine.
After the rejection of the request of an expedited appeal procedure (“recours en référé”) by the administrative court, Wish decided to file an appeal in cassation. A new judicial saga seems to be looming on the horizon.
Ministry of Economy and Finance: « Protection des consommateurs: lourde sanction pour la place de marché en ligne Wish »: www.economie.gouv.fr/protection-consommateurs-sanction-place-marche-ligne-wish
TA Paris, Ord. 17 déc. 2021, n° N°2125366/2
Press release of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, November 24, 2021, « Bruno Le Maire, Alain Griset et Cédric O annoncent des mesures exceptionnelles à l’encontre de la place de marché Wish pour sensibiliser et mieux protéger les consommateurs »