Wish is making a comeback in France. Sentenced to a heavy fine for deceptive commercial practices, the famous e-commerce platform returns to search engines and application stores. By remaining under surveillance.
Wish is making a half-hearted return to the French market in March 2023. The famous e-commerce platform, known for offering a myriad of products of all kinds at very low prices, is indeed authorized to reappear at both in search engines like Google and in app stores like Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store: spaces from which it was banned at the end of 2021, following the delisting request of the Directorate General for Consumer Affairs, Competition and Fraud Prevention – the famous DGCCRF.
This rehabilitation comes a few days after the company was sentenced, on Friday March 10, 2023, to a fine of 3 million euros by the Paris Criminal Court for deceptive commercial practices, according to elements reported in 2020 by the repression of fraud resulting from investigations carried out in 2018 and 2019 (see below). As reported The Informed, the founder and ex-CEO of the platform Peter Szulczewski was present at the time of the announcement, since he recognized the grievances of which he was accused. As a result, he was ordered to pay a fine of 250,000 euros as part of a procedure for prior recognition of guilt. For his part, Wish explained to journalists from L’Informé that the e-commerce platform had solved the problems mentioned in recent years, recalling that the accusations made do not “carry [que] over the period between November 2018 and November 2019“. This is why the delisting of the platform on search engines and the banning of the application from the Play Store and the App Store have been lifted, although Wish is under close surveillance. The DGCCRF does not waits for a false step to fall on him!
Wish: the platform back on Google, but under surveillance
After more than a year of absence on the French Internet, Wish is making a comeback, the company having finally complied with the rules imposed by the Government. Thus, the delisting of the platform, which had been requested at the end of 2021, is canceled on all search engines and the site is now the first result that appears when you type “Wish” on Google. The application is also present on the App Store and the Play Store. “We have received a notification from the DGCCRF informing us that the injunction of November 23, 2021 ordering us to delist ‘Wish.com’ from our search engine and Play is lifted”explains Google to BFM-TV. The cabinet of Olivia Grégoire, the Minister Delegate in charge of SMEs, Trade, Crafts and Tourism, oversees the actions of the DGCCRF and explains this decision was taken “after more than a year of exchange with Wish, in view of the commitments made” by the platform, which would have set up “withdrawal and recall procedures, and a limitation of products similar to those recognized as non-compliant and dangerous”. The DGCCRD will however remain “very attentive to Wish’s commitments”.
Nevertheless, the Constitutional Council had validated, on Friday, October 21, the sanctions imposed on the e-commerce platform by the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) in 2021. At the time, Wish had attempted an appeal with the administrative court of Paris which had failed. His lawyers then filed a priority question of constitutionality (QPC) with the Constitutional Council based on freedom of expression and freedom of enterprise, a Council which has just confirmed the sentence, emphasizing that these sanctions are intended to “strengthen consumer protection and ensure the fairness of online commercial transactions” And “pursued[vent] an objective of general interest”, and that the site does indeed offer items prohibited by law. Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, however clarified to BFM TV that today there is “no more reason to refuse referencing” of the site.
Wish: non-compliant and dangerous products
As a reminder, the American e-commerce platform was accused by the authorities of offering for sale dangerous items that did not comply with European standards and, above all, of having done nothing to remedy this situation. It was the second time that Wish – and by extension the company ContextLogic Inc. which operates this marketplace – has drawn the wrath of the DGCCRF. By the end of 2020, the platform had already been targeted by investigation concerning “misleading price reduction ads and fraudulent promotion of unavailable well-known brand products” on the Wish website and app. For the record, after notifying the platform of the presence of these illicit products, the DGCCRF had noticed that, even once removed, they often reappeared on Wish… under another name! The DGCCRF then sent the results of its investigations to the Public Prosecutor at the Paris court.
The Wish e-commerce platform is best known for selling products at bargain prices. It’s very simple, almost everything is made in China. Inevitably, this is reflected in the quality. The photos are not representative, the items are not the right size, the materials are not those indicated, the orders are delivered after long weeks, there are many scams… The “Bestdeeal9” scandal, revealed by the New York Times, was the perfect example: 213,000 customers had been scammed by the same seller without his reporting posing a problem for the company. But the real and big concern is that many of the products sold there are dangerous.
Indeed, Wish has been singled out as part of a survey that the DGCCRF carries out each year on compliance and safety of products sold on marketplaces and online platforms – a market whose turnover exceeded 112 billion euros in France in 2020. “The survey conducted in 2020, renewing two similar surveys from 2018 and 2019, once again highlighted high levels of deficiencies. Thus, in 2020, for 129 product tests carried out, more than 60% were abnormal (28 % non-compliant and 32 % non-compliant and dangerous)”, relayed the DGCCRF. In the case of Wish, of the 140 products offered for sale on the marketplace and analyzed by the SCL (Joint laboratory service) at the request of the DGCCRF, 90% of electrical appliances analyzed were considered dangerous, as were 62% of costume jewelery and 45% of toys. In practice, “some toys were made with small parts that came off too easily, at the risk of being ingested and causing toddlers to suffocate”, specifies the Ministry of the Economy, quoted by Le Parisien. Same observation on electrical appliances, 95% of which were non-compliant, with 90% of risky products. Example: the electric Christmas garland, capable of lighting up the Christmas tree… and setting fire to homes.
The administration had therefore ordered Wish to comply and, considering that it had not received any “satisfactory answer”, had decided to opt for the hard way by imposing a delisting of the website by search engines (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Qwant, etc.) and of the Wish application for application download platforms (AppStore , Google Play Store…). However, this decision could be overturned in the event that Wish chooses to comply with French law and comply with European safety and quality standards.
Wish banned: a warning to e-commerce platforms
“There is no reason to tolerate online what we do not accept in physical stores”had at the time declared Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, who had been questioned by the daily newspaper Le Parisien. “These players flout product safety regulations. This is unacceptable”continued the Minister in a communicated. However – and this is one of the paradoxes of the decision taken by the DGCCRF – access to the Wish site remains possible by entering the URL directly. And neophytes in search of sensations – and low prices – can also continue to find, at their own risk, the site on active search engines outside France, using a simple VPN and selecting a relay server located abroad. However, the sanction taken by the DGCCRF has already considerably reduced its activity. According to the Federation of e-commerce and distance selling, interviewed by The worldWish was the eighth most visited merchant site in France in 2020. In 2022, it is no longer even in the Top 20. Its stock market share fell from 24 dollars at its listing in 2020 to only 2 dollars in July 2022. The company’s managers are well aware of the big weak point of their platform since they recognized, in their IPO file, that their reputation “could suffer if our merchants engage in unethical or illegal practices, such as selling fraudulent or counterfeit products.” The tumble began, however, before the DGCCRF sanctions, due to the bad reputation acquired by the platform among consumers.
The DGCCRF’s decision sounded like a serious warning to other online market players – such as AliExpress, Joom, Amazon MarketPlace… – who do not always shine with the excellence of the products offered for sale. On October 15, 2021, the DGCCRF thus indicated that, concerning the 2020 edition of its survey on products sold in marketplaces, of the product tests carried out, more than 60% were abnormal – 28% non-compliant and 32% non-compliant and dangerous. As Capital, the magazine of the M6 channel, pointed out in a program aired on September 15, 2019, many of the marketplaces – today in the sights of the DGCCRF – have chosen, in order to impose themselves and remain competitive, to apply a magic formula: they are content to connect manufacturers and customers. They mostly offer products “made in China” at unbeatable prices; they have no stocks, no logistics or delivery costs… But all this has a cost, most often paid at a high price by the consumer.