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Google pulls the plug on e-commerce giant Wish in France for listing unsafe goods

Google is reportedly delisting the controversial U.S. e-commerce platform Wish from its search results in France, marking the latest stage of the French government’s quest to blot out the U.S. firm.

Last week, several French ministries asked Big Tech firms to stop Wish’s website from appearing in search results, and its app from being listed in mobile app stores, because of serious and widespread product safety concerns.

Google and Apple both removed the Wish app from their French app stores, and rival search engines such as Microsoft’s Bing and France’s Qwant delisted the website from their results, before Google also took the search-engine step. According to Le Figaro, it could take up to a day for Google’s French Wish delisting to take effect.

Earlier on Monday, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned the government would take legal action against search engines and app stores that continue to list Wish. “I give them a few more days, the benefit of the doubt,” he said, according to Politico.

It is unprecedented for a major service to be semi-disappeared like this in France (Wish’s web shop is still accessible by typing in its address, even if it cannot be found through search). And doing it just ahead of the holiday shopping season is a big deal, even if Wish was allowed to benefit from the Black Friday consumption extravaganza. French officials told Reuters last week that the move was “intended to send a strong signal” during the legislative process around the EU’s new Digital Services Act, a legal package targeting online platforms.

The online marketplace has run into its share of bad press in Europe after a British consumer watchdog alleged merchants used the Wish platform to sell “fake, illegal, and dangerous products.” And, in the spring, Italian authorities launched an investigation into the sale on Wish of “unreliable” home-testing kits for COVID.

Last year, France’s consumer affairs department started looking into reports of counterfeit goods being sold via Wish, a so-called drop shipping platform that connects consumers with largely Chinese third-party merchants (and whose ads, often touting bizarrely niche products, are ubiquitous on Facebook and Instagram).

The regulator found that almost all the electronic goods and toys offered over Wish failed to comply with European safety regulations. Even most of the perfume bought over Wish was classed as dangerous. While Wish generally removed specific items that were flagged as being dangerous, the economy ministry said last week, the same products usually remained available under different branding.

In an emailed statement, Wish said its status as a marketplace platform meant it is “under no legal obligation to carry out checks on the 150 million products offered for sale on the platform.” However, it added, it tries to “attract and reward sellers that offer quality items, and limit the exposure of those offering lower quality items.”

The operation, which is run by San Francisco-based ContextLogic, also said it is “actively diversifying its merchant base by recruiting sellers in a variety of geographies, including Europe, in order to expand product selection and further improve product quality.” It said the French crackdown was “excessive,” and it is “actively pursuing legal recourse” to challenge it.

ContextLogic/Wish had the dubious distinction of having last year’s worst U.S. trading debut, with its stock falling 16% in a December IPO. That took it down to a shade over $20 a share, but it was only the beginning of an ongoing slide that broke through the $4 barrier last week.

Neither Apple nor Google had responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.

Founded in 2010 by Google engineer Peter Szulczewski, Wish is an online bazaar that specializes in discounted goods–anything from kitchen utensils to sex toys. It went public last December at an offer price of $24 per share. It was trading down 0.5% at the open on Monday, off nearly 80% since the start of the year.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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