PS11746 - ICA-Authority asks the operators of the major search engines and browsers to take action against unauthorised online sales of COVID-19 drugs  


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The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato has decided to involve the operators of the main search engines and browsers again (Google, Apple, Italiaonline, Microsoft, Verizon (Yahoo), Mozilla, DuckDuckGo) in the fight against unfair commercial practices that leverage the ongoing health emergency.

This initiative follows the monitoring of the internet by the Special Antitrust Unit of the Guardia di Finanza [Finance Police] which identified 361 URLs corresponding to web pages, banners or hypertext links maliciously introduced into websites with lawful activities, often of a medical or paramedical nature. These sites redirect to around sixty 'abusive pharmacies' - lacking the necessary authorisation to sell medicines online - which promote and sell prescription-only medicines, boasting a curative function with regard to 'Coronavirus'.

The Authority therefore decided to transmit the list of the 361 URLs to the operators of the main search engines and browsers (Google, Apple, Italiaonline, Microsoft , Verizon (Yahoo), Mozilla, DuckDuckGo), inviting them i) to remove the reported URLs from search results and ii) not to index the URLs containing links to the websites identified as “abusive pharmacies”.

Apple, Google and ItaliaOnLine promptly responded to a previous invitation sent by the Authority to the above mentioned operators, to avoid the display in search results of pages which illegally promote the sale of the drug "Kaletra”, subject to some precautionary measures by the Authority.

In its latest invitation, the Authority reminded the operators that have still not responded, that pursuant to article 17 of Legislative Decree 70/2003, the service provider of the information society bears civil liability for the content of such services if it does not take immediate steps to remove access to such content, when so requested by an administrative authority with supervisory functions.

Rome, 21 April 2020