Ecommerce, what responsibilities


Two numbers to ponder, how much is the sale
of food and how many official public controls Are dedicated to it. The value of the ecommerce market in the
food & grocery
in Italy reached 812 million euros in 2017 (+37% compared to 2016), 295 checks by ICQRF (1). Can more be done?

Ecommerce, what responsibilities

Registration. All operators performing sales
of food and beverages, on a par with
physical, are subject to registration with the relevant health authorities. (2)



. The EU Court of Justice, it will be recalled, has also stated that sellers


Should come certified for the purpose of selling organic food


Self-monitoring. The distributors
– the same as physical ones and any other operator within the food chain–have self-control responsibilities, to be carried out through proper application of GMP, PRP, Haccp. (3)

Food safety


. The self-control plan must logically include an appropriate assessment of the risks of providing unsafe, (4) that is, counterfeit food. The latter are presumed to be at risk as the subject of illicit activities.

Safety and

consumer information

. The operator of ecommerce site must notify consumers of all mandatory product-related information on products for sale. In contrast to the findings of the previous survey of Great Italian Food Trade, which then led to Amazon’s complaint to the Competition and Market Authority. (5)

The systematic recording of information
required by the
Food Information Regulation
, (6) please note, must precede the display for sale
Of individual food products. (7)


is also required, according to the provisions of the
General Food Law
. (8) This entails the obligation to record the flow of goods, identifying both the respective suppliers and recipients other than the final consumer. Making such information available to authorities upon request. (9)

The prevention of

food fraud
– which, it is reiterated, can affect the safety of products, as well as the fairness of business practices (10) and more generally the civil responsibilities of the seller – should in turn be based on the recording of the information that is obligatory to transfer to the consumer before he or she makes the choice to purchase individual products.

Self-control must therefore include supplier monitoring activities, with frequency and intensity to be based on appropriate risk analyses. For this purpose, the following should be considered:

– risks that specifically pertain to certain product categories. Also taking into account the peculiar vulnerability of some of them to food fraud,

– the risks associated with parallel imports and trade intermediaries who may neglect information duties in the language

of the country where the goods are sold.

The hypothesis of aiding and abetting the crime of trade fraud is around the corner, and it also takes the form of malicious intent. That is, in cases of conscious acceptance of risk – by the distributor (
) – to participate in the sale of products whose value is less than that promised. By also inevitably participating in the realization of an illicit profit.

The distributor is prohibited from to market food of which it can even presume non-compliance with the information requirements of EU Regulation 1169/11. (11) And it is clear how the most complex organizations-from which a level of professional diligence is demanded that coincides with the best science and experience applicable to the field-cannot escape responsibility by claiming that they do not know or ‘cannot control.’ (12)

Food business operators who do not influence food information shall not supply food whose non-compliance with the applicable food information law and the requirements of relevant national provisions they know or presume, based on the information in their possession as professionals.‘ (EU Reg. 1169/11, Article 8.3).

Official public controls, in view of the above, could therefore be optimized by focusing activities on controlling the procedures in place at the locations of the various ecommerce sites operating in Italy. Operator registration, systematic collection of data on individual products and their publication on the pages where they are placed for sale, self-control systems. In liaison with Interpol if there is a lack of registered offices in Italy. A single inspection could thus enable compliance to be verified on tens and hundreds of thousands of products sold.

Dario Dongo


(1) ‘Overall, our country continues to pay a large delay in comparison with the leading European economies: digital trade is worth half a percent of domestic consumption in Italy, while in France and the United Kingdom it comes to between 6 percent and 8 percent.‘ See Coop Italy report, page 231, on

(2) Pursuant to Hygiene Regulation 1, reg. EC 852/04.

(3) Idem c.s.

(4) Both intrinsic food hazards (physical, chemical, microbiological contamination) and extrinsic hazards should be considered for this purpose. Namely, the risks that can result from non-compliance of health-relevant news, among the mandatory label information.

(5) Great Italian Food Trade filed a report W00093742 with the Supervisory Authority on 14.12.17 against Amazon. Still waiting to hear about the status of the procedure

(6) See reg. EU 1169/11, Article 14

(7) For the definition of food, reg. EU 1169/11 makes reference to reg. EC 178/02, Article 2

(8) Pursuant to reg. EC 178/02, Article 18

(9) On closer inspection, the systematic recording of news that it is mandatory to transfer to the consumer is an excellent premise for ensuring product traceability, to be supplemented with transaction data

(10) See dir. 2005/29/EC on unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices, implemented in Italy by d.lgs. 146/07

(11) V. reg. EU 1169/11, Article 8.3

(12) Some of the cases we have provided evidence of undoubtedly integrate the cases of fraud in commerce, with respect to which the authorities should take action against Amazon. Such are the cases, for example, of products sold without indication of their quantity, or with differentiated information about them. See the article