Alibaba to Work with CPSC to Prevent Exports of U.S. Recalled Products
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., a China-based e-commerce company that had more than 300 million active buyers last year, has pledged to work with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to prevent U.S. buyers from purchasing illegal and recalled consumer products on Alibaba platforms, the CPSC announced Tuesday.
In the fall, CPSC commissioner Elliot F. Kaye urged online sites to take more responsibility in halting the sales of recalled consumer products, and this week at the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair, he announced the collaboration between the agency and Alibaba that will make those products unavailable to U.S. buyers.
In addition to blocking illegal sales, Alibaba, which operates sites as a platform for third parties, will create access points on its business-to-business platform that will provide U.S. importers with the country's safety standards.
"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," Kaye said in a statement. "The company's forward-leaning approach in this regard will help prevent dangerous and recalled products from being passed on to unsuspecting consumers."
"We are honored and proud to work with the CPSC on these important and serious consumer protection measures," added Jim Wilkinson, Alibaba'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."
According to The New York Times, some companies on Alibaba recently had sold high-powered magnets—which were recalled in 2012 and then banned in September (although Zen Magnets continues to fight the mandatory recall and ban in court). By working with Alibaba, the CPSC, which initiated contact regarding this partnership two years ago, can prevent small companies from purposely or inadvertently importing the magnets and other recalled products.
This is key since the CSPC has acknowledged about 80 percent of recalled products are not accounted for in a "good" recall, with that number sometimes reaching 95 percent—with the remainder of the recalled products possibly appearing on store shelves, online or inside American homes, according to ABC News.
However, the partnership is not completely a win-win for the CPSC, the Times reported.
If the company fails to live up to its end of the bargain, Mr. Kaye said the commission would not hesitate to pressure the company.
Though Alibaba said last month that it spent about $160 million combating the sale of fake goods on its sites in 2013 and 2014, many companies complain that Alibaba can be slow to pull down listings of pirated goods. Others point out that removed listings often quickly reappear under different names.
Kaye, according to the Times, will start with five to 15 priority products for Alibaba to pull from available products for U.S. buyers. That list would then expand over time. For the problematic items, Kaye expects them to be taken down within hours.
“We’re certainly going to hold their feet to the fire,” he said.