Indonesia's Food and Drug Monitoring Agency to crack down on unscrupulous online traders

Indonesia's Food and Drug Monitoring Agency to crack down on unscrupulous online traders

Responding to the increasing number of unlicensed food, drugs and cosmetics sold online, the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) is planning to work with logistics companies and e-commerce outlets to curb the distribution of illegal products and protect local consumers from potential harm.

Speaking during a visit to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, BPOM head Roy Alexander Sparingga said the support of the companies was essential, as the agency had found it difficult to trace operators behind the mushrooming online sale of unlicensed food, drugs and cosmetics over the past several years.

"Online sellers usually use fake identities and addresses when selling their unlicensed products to buyers. We have no option other than to limit the movement [of the products]," Roy said.

Through the co-operation, Roy continued, the BPOM was expecting logistics companies to only facilitate the shipment of food, drugs and cosmetics products bearing official distribution registration numbers (NIE) - which show that a product has secured a BPOM license.

In a joint operation with Interpol in May last year, BPOM, for example, identified 302 websites that offered unlicensed food, drugs and cosmetics products to consumers in 15 provinces, including Jakarta, Yogyakarta, West Java and Bali.

"All the websites have now been blocked by the Communications and Information Ministry," Roy said.

The investigation also led to the confiscation of hundreds of items of various unlicensed products worth more than Rp 7.4 billion (US$559,970) in 58 separate locations.

PT Tiki Jalur Nugraha Ekakurir (JNE), one of the country's biggest logistics companies, said it was ready to support the agency's campaign.

JNE spokesperson Hendrianida Primanti said the company, which has 3,000 network locations across the archipelago, already had a system in place to intercept the shipment of dangerous goods and products.

"We will manually check the shipment package the moment it is handed over by our costumers at our counters," she said. "We also have X-ray facilities standing by in our headquarters and our sorting centres at airports."

Major online retailers also voiced similar support.

Zalora public relations manager Afdita Sari told the Post that representatives of the online fashion retailer had recently visited BPOM to consult about its plan to sell new varieties of cosmetics products.

"We need to make sure that the products we offer to our costumers comply with the agency's regulations," she said.

Having had a presence in Indonesia since 2012, Zalora currently has more than 1 million unique customers in the country, 30 per cent of whom are in Jakarta and the remaining 70 per cent in a number of other cities, including Medan, North Sumatra, Bandung, West Java, and Surabaya, East Java.

Advisory firm Redwing has predicted that the number of Internet users in Indonesia will surge from 55 million in 2012 to 125 million this year, providing a huge consumer base for e-commerce players, including those with little concern for consumer safety standards.

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