The omissions of online shopping platforms. Altroconsumo survey

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The web platforms that allow you to shop for food online are still too often a jungle. Consumers are deprived of essential information, as well as mandatory information under the Food Information Regulation (EU) No 1169/11. (1)

The first consumer association in Italy, Altroconsumo, dedicates a survey to this phenomenon which analyzes the conformity of 418 food products on sale on 12 e-commerce platforms. (2) With an appeal to the competent authorities to exercise the necessary official controls.

Online shopping platforms, illegality unpunished

The rule which requires providing the same information as on the label on online food shopping websites seems optional for the managers of the numerous sector platforms. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) has denounced unfair commercial practices of this kind several times over the years. Even alerting the Antitrust, in vain. (3)

Unfair practices already reported by GIFT – Great Italian Food Trade – are the most varied:

– incorrect sales prices, due to omitted or inaccurate indication of the price per unit of measurement (per kg or per litre),

– absent or illegible list of ingredients, with consequent impossibility of knowing the safety of foods for consumers allergic and intolerant to some substances (i.e. sources of gluten) and the QUID, i.e. the quantity of characterizing product mentioned in the name (for example, chocolate cookies). (4)

– missing or illegible nutritional table,

– indication of the origin of the food not communicated, even when mandatory.

The Altroconsumo investigation

The numerous violations of laws found by GIFT continue undisturbed, as shown by the analysis conducted by Altroconsumo on 12 online food sales platforms, divided between supermarkets, discount stores, e-commerce sites and home delivery apps: Carrefour, Conad, Coop, Esselunga, Eurospin, Amazon/Amazon Unes, Cortilia, Eataly, Everli, Deliveroo app and site, Getir app and Glovo app and site.

The most respectful sites of EU regulation 1169/11 are those of supermarkets and that of the discount store Eurospin. Even the platform courtyard and the food delivery app brought have proven to be careful in reporting the information required by law online.

The same cannot be said, however, for other sites and apps. Particularly in the case of Amazon Unes, it emerged that the information are heterogeneous and disordered, to the point of putting the consumer in difficulty instead of guiding him. Until we get to food delivery apps, Glovo and Deliveroo, that they do not report the minimum information required by law‘, explains Altroconsumo, which reported the violations to MASAF, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forests, ‘for action to be taken‘.

Optional information

In addition to the presence of mandatory information (pursuant to the Food Information Regulation), the consumer association has researched other useful aspects, such as:

– the publication of photographs which allow you to clearly read the information, both mandatory and non-mandatory, displayed on the label,

– the substantial admission of poor service, expressed with the warning that the site may provide less updated information than that present on the package,

– indication of duration (expiry date or TMC, minimum shelf life) for fresh products. ‘Date marking’, although not mandatory in e-commerce, allows the consumer to make an informed purchasing choice similar to that offered in the physical store. (5)

Coop and Cortilia they are the only platforms, among the 12 observed, to offer this news (at least for yogurt, a food included in the survey).

Marta Strinati

Footnotes

(1) Dario Dongo. Ecommerce, mandatory information on the label in the language of the country of destination. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 22.6.21

(2) Altroconsumo investigation into 12 online shopping sites: little transparency. Altroconsumo. 12.10.23 https://www.altroconsumo.it/alimentazione/fare-la-spesa/news/spesa-online-poco-trasparente

(3) Dario Dongo, Marta Singed. Everli, Carrefour, the ecommerce that deceives. High prices and misleading labels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 28.11.20

(4) Dario Dongo. Compound ingredients and QUIDs on the label, widespread deceptions. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.6.19

(5) Dario Dongo. TMC and expiration date. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 31.3.18

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".