According to Trading Standards, Facebook Marketplace receives the highest complaints concerning its use to sell fake, subpar, and potentially dangerous goods.
The online giant, which allows third-party sellers to trade goods on the platform via the marketplace, came under fire for taking too long to take action against problem sellers and for allowing potentially harmful products to resurface on its platform after being taken down.
The online behemoth gives its officers the most worry, according to a nationwide study by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), and it is also unresponsive or uncooperative when contacted about issue sellers.
Facebook was named the online marketplace that received the most complaints from respondents who represented roughly 50 local authorities in the UK, according to more than half (53%) of those surveyed.
The CTSI’s poll, the first of its type, also discovered that Trading Standards teams struggled to effectively handle issues with online markets due to a “triple whammy” of persistent challenges, including uncooperative businesses, inappropriate legislation, and a lack of resources.
Only 10% of Trading Standards inspectors claimed that these three barriers prevented them from taking action against online marketplaces.
According to the CTSI poll, 57% of police reported getting no response when seeking to contact vendors on online marketplaces, 63% stated the law as it stands is unfit for purpose, and 45% of officers noted a lack of cooperation from online marketplaces as a regular problem.
59% of respondents claimed they were unable to get information on the whereabouts of third-party sellers on online marketplaces, and 29% claimed they were unable to address complaints about these marketplaces due to a lack of time and resources.
John Herriman, CEO of CTSI, stated that Facebook Marketplace must improve. There is a genuine pressure for online retailers to take their obligations to their customers more seriously at a time when more and more people are shopping online.
“The fact that Facebook Marketplace is an offshoot of a social media platform rather than a service that was built as an online retailer from the ground up speaks volumes. If it wants to be seen as a proper online retailer where people can buy safe and legitimate goods, it needs to start acting like one.
“Failing to take action against sellers who use their platform to mislead, rip off and potentially endanger consumers just isn’t good enough.
“We are calling for all online marketplaces to take action against problem sellers, for the law to be tightened up so enforcers have more tools at their disposal to protect consumers, and for more resources that enable us to do that more effectively.”
A Meta spokesman said: “We take these issues seriously and when we find listings that violate our rules, we remove them.
“We also work closely with external partners and respond to valid legal requests from law enforcement and the Office for Product Safety and Standards, to prevent illegal activity on our platforms.”
Phil Lewis, director general of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), said: “Criminals rely on legal e-commerce platforms, social media, maritime freight companies, express couriers, airlines, postal services and internet hosting services to set up rogue shopping sites.
“ACG is calling on government to recognise the growing international threats to our families, job-providing businesses and the economy.
“Appropriate enforcement resources and a policy architecture are desperately needed to ensure the companies providing these services work alongside our enforcement authorities and businesses, to combat this intensifying threat.”
Martyn Allen, technical director of the charity Electrical Safety First, said: “Sadly, the high number of complaints Trading Standards officers receive regarding online purchases comes as no surprise.
“Currently, online marketplaces like eBay and Facebook Marketplace are operating with fewer safety regulations than traditional high street retailers, eroding fair competition and allowing the sale of unsafe goods to flood the market unabated. This puts UK citizens at serious risk of injury and harm.
“It’s been a year and a half since the UK Government promised publication of the Product Safety Review, which is expected to include proposals to protect British consumers when they shop online.
“The time for waiting is over – the Government must prioritise publishing the Review without any further delay.”
Yvonne Fovargue, chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Consumer Protection, said: “Since the pandemic and now, with the cost-of-living crisis, more people are buying products from online marketplaces.
“These consumers deserve to be treated fairly and should be able to be confident that what they buy is safe and accurately described.
“Online retailers like Facebook Marketplace need to be held to account just like any other type of business, otherwise consumers and legitimate businesses lose out.”