Brussels has launched an investigation into China-based platform AliExpress over allegations it broke nearly a dozen rules under the Digital Services Act. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)


EC hits China’s AliExpress with DSA investigation amid rising tensions


Brussels is investigating China-based platform AliExpress over allegations it broke a number of rules under the European Union’s Digital Services Act.

Announced by European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton on March 14, the probe comes just 24 hours after US politicians voted in favour of a bill that could ban social media giant TikTok there.

According to an EC press release, AliExpress is suspected of breaching 10 DSA articles, ranging from the provision of illegal content to failing to prevent children from accessing pornography.

The EC also claimed potentially dangerous goods such as fake cosmetics, medicines and supplements were on sale on the site.

Some of these were allegedly made available by internet personalities, who could theoretically profit through their sale thanks to the Chinese platform’s “affiliate programme”.

“The Digital Services Act is not just about hate speech, disinformation and cyber-bullying. It is also there to ensure removal of illegal or unsafe products sold in the EU via e-commerce platforms,” self-styled “digital enforcer” Breton said.

“As [a] platform reaching over 100 million users in the EU, AliExpress must fully comply with the DSA and take proportionate action to fight the dissemination of dangerous goods for consumers’ health and for minors, including by influencers, members of their ‘Affiliate Programme’.”

It is not the first investigation the EC has launched into so-called Very Large Online Platforms. TikTok and X are already being scrutinised under the DSA.

The March 14 announcement does come amid spiking tensions between Chinese tech platforms and the West. The US House of Representatives voted a day earlier in favour of a bill that could see TikTok banned from app stores in the country.

If the US legislation comes into force, TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance will be given five months to divest its shares in the platform. If it fails to do so in that time, American app stores will be forbidden from distributing it in the country.

While the proposal still needs to be passed by the US Senate – where it could face an uphill battle – China has already hit out at the move. “The handling of the incident by the US will allow the world to see more clearly whether the so-called rules and order of the US are for the benefit of the world or only serve the US itself,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said regarding the issue.

Another Chinese official accused Washington of not respecting “the market economy and the principle of fair competition”, despite most major US tech companies already having been banned from mainland China.