QuickLinks - Consumer protection
QuickLinks - Consumer protection
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Issue no. 403 - 24 November 2009
EU - A European Digital Agenda for the New Digital Consumer
Speech by Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media, BEUC multi-stakeholder Forum on "Consumer Privacy and Online Marketing: Market Trends and Policy Perspectives" Brussels, 12 November 2009.
EU - Commission forms industry body to solve behavioural advertising problems
The European Commission has formed a new group, the Stakeholder Forum on Fair Data Collection, in an attempt to regulate companies' growing gathering and use of customers' personal data. The group has been formed to address problems the Commission says are eroding consumer trust. Online retail is increasingly dependent on information on users' browsing habits and demographic information gathered from them. Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva has created a new industry body that she wants to address the privacy and consumer protection problems faced by the users of online retail services. See "
Consumer Privacy and Online Market
" Speech by Meglena Kuneva European Consumer Commissioner, BEUC Multi-Stakeholder Forum "Consumer Privacy and Online Marketing: Market Trends and Policy Perspectives" Brussels, 12 November 2009.
EU cracks down on mobile services
Websites mis-selling mobile ringtones and other services have been forced to clean up their acts, following a European Union crackdown. Some 301 sites were investigated, resulting in the closure of 54 and the correction of 159. The biggest problems were unclear pricing and misleading advertising suggesting ringtones were free. The investigation was a direct response to hundreds of complaints from parents and consumers across Europe. See
Commission Press Release
Issue no. 401 - 26 July 2009
US - New York Attorney General Sues Tagged.com
(New York Times)
Andrew Cuomo, New York's attorney general, intends to sue the social network Tagged.com "for deceptive e-mail marketing practices and invasion of privacy". Tagged, Mr. Cuomo alleges, illegally tried to lure new members by tricking visitors into providing their personal address books, which the company used to send out more invitations. Tagged disguised these e-mails to make it seem like a friend was inviting them to view personal photos.
Issue no. 400 - 5 July 2009
Kids targeted in net ad push
Marketers are joining children in turning off the television and shifting their advertising attention to the unregulated world of the internet. There they are creating new levels of interaction with their consumers while raising deeper concerns with web-challenged parents. Social networking sites, game pages and video portals are becoming the preferred choice for brands that at once are providing large chunks of content while also gaining valuable information about growing consumers.
Issue no. 399 - 7 June 2009
EU - Commission launches guide to consumers' "digital rights"
The European Commission has launched the
, a new online tool giving practical advice on the "digital rights" consumers have under EU law. This guide, which responds to a call from the European Parliament in 2007, addresses consumer issues like the rights towards your broadband provider, shopping on the web, downloading music and protecting your personal data online and on social networking sites.
Issue no. 393 - 9 November 2008
EU - Consumers: Commission proposes EU-wide rights for shoppers
The European Commission has launched proposals for EU-wide rights to make it easier for consumers to shop on the Internet and in the main street. The new proposal will guarantee consumers, wherever they shop in the EU, clear information on price and additional charges and fees before they sign a contract. It will strengthen consumer protection against late delivery and non delivery, as well as setting out tough EU-wide consumer rights on issues from cooling off periods, returns, refunds, repairs and guarantees and unfair contract term. The proposed Consumer Rights Directive simplifies 4 existing EU consumer rights directives into one set of rules. It targets e-commerce as part of a wide ranging overhaul and up grading of existing EU consumer rights online and in the high street. The aim is to boost consumer confidence and at the same time to cut red tape which is holding back business within national borders ? denying consumers more choice and competitive offers. A standard set of consumer contract terms will cut compliance costs substantially - by up to 97% for EU wide traders. The proposed directive upgrades existing consumer protection in key areas where there have been large numbers of complaints in recent years - such as pressure selling. It adapts the legislation to new technology and sales methods, for example, m-commerce and online "ebay" auctions. There is a clear requirement in the new proposal for clear information about consumer rights to be displayed at point of sale.
Issue no. 390 - 20 July 2008
EU - Ringtone websites hidden charges 'exploiting" children
More than 90% of websites selling ringtones for mobile phones to children and teenagers are misleading them with unclear charges and confusing information, an investigation by the European commission has found. The tactics include signing up users to subscriptions when they believe they are downloading one-off tunes and using free offers to lure them into long-term paid contracts. Brussels is to announce that it will launch inquiries into dozens of British ringtone websites, in addition to many others across Europe. In a further move against the exploitation of mobile phone users, Viviane Reding, the European Union telecoms commissioner, said that operators had adopted a "bunker mentality" by not reducing their international call charges.
EU clampdown on ring-tone scams
EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva has announced the results of an EU-wide investigation into websites offering mobile phone services such as ring-tones and wallpapers. The enquiry, which was carried out on more than 500 websites across the 27 Member States, Norway and Iceland, found that 80% of the sites checked need to be further investigated for suspected breaches of EU consumer rules. Many of the websites target children and young people. Problems found included: unclear price information where prices are incomplete did not include taxes or customers are unaware that they are signing up to a subscription. Large numbers of websites do not provide some of the required contact information about the trader. Other problems relate to misleading information where key information is hidden in very small print or hard to find on a website or the word "free" is used to mislead consumers into a long-term contracts. Companies will be contacted by the national authorities and asked to clarify or correct problems identified. Failure to do so can result in legal action leading to fines or closure of their websites. For cross border cases, national authorities will work with colleagues from other EU authorities. Authorities are asked to report back on their progress in the first half of 2009. See also
Frequently Asked Questions
Issue no. 389 - 22 June 2008
EU - Brussels eyes internet retailing
Moves to break down national borders in internet retailing so that customers can take advantage of prices offered by companies in different countries are to be championed by the EU's consumer protection commissioner. Meglena Kuneva plans an assault on companies which vary their online prices across the European Union but restrict customers to making purchases only on their own national website. Ms Kuneva will make the pledge as she announces plans for separate legislation for creating an EU-wide simplified set of rights governing online and High Street transactions. see
Key Challenges for Consumer Policy in the Digital Age
Speech by Meglena Kuneva, European Consumer Commissioner, Roundtable on Digital Issues, London, 20 June 2008. See also
Commission sets out 5 priorities for consumer policy in a digital age
Gap between domestic and cross-border e-commerce grows wider, says EU report
(Press Releases). Frequently Asked Questions on E-commerce in the European Union -
UK - ISPs sign up to Ofcom Code on broadband speeds
A Code of Practice to ensure that internet service providers (ISPs) offer greater clarity over customers' broadband line speeds was published by Ofcom today. The Code does not require the disclosure of average speeds, but Ofcom said that might change. Some 32 ISPs, covering over 90% of broadband customers, have already agreed to honour both the letter and the spirit of the Code to give consumers a clearer understanding of the speeds they can get. Signatories include BT Total Broadband, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Tiscali and AOL Broadband.
Issue no. 387 - 12 May 2008
EU - Consumers: 50% of misleading airline websites corrected
EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva published the mid term report on an EU wide enforcement investigation - involving 15 EU national authorities as well as Norway - against misleading advertising and unfair practices on airline ticket selling websites. The report shows that there are "serious and persistent consumer problems" throughout the airline industry as a whole. 1 in 3 websites surveyed (137 out of 386 originally checked by the 13 reporting countries) have had to be followed up with enforcement action over the last 7 months for breaches of EU consumer law. Over 50% of those websites have been corrected during this time. See also
Airline Ticket selling website - EU Enforcement Results. Questions and Answers
and Meglena KUNEVA, European Consumer Commissioner, Airline Ticket Sweep Investigation,
Press conference speaking points
, Brussels, May 8th 2008. see also
EU issues airline website threat
Issue no. 384 - 24 February 2008
UK - Text scams warning to youngsters
Thousands of young people have been sent fake scam text messages by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to warn them about con-artists. The campaign saw 25,000 mobile phone users aged between 18 and 24 receive a message telling them they might have won £1,000 in cash. But a second message arrived soon after informing them that the message was a fake and warning them about scams.
Issue no. 382 - 6 January 2008
EU - New rules crackdown on misleading advertising and aggressive sales practices
Just two weeks before Christmas, sweeping new EU rules to crackdown on misleading advertising and aggressive selling practices - including a ban on fake "free" offers and a ban on "pester power" advertising (direct exhortation) to children on the Internet - will come into force across the EU (December 12 2007). These restrictions are part of an extensive black list of schemes which are banned by the new Unfair Commercial Practices (UCP) Directive - targeting in particular a "dirty dozen" of the some of the most abusive practices, from bait advertising, to pyramid schemes, advertorials and false curative health claims which are used against consumers. To date only 14 Member States have implemented the directive. The Commission has launched proceedings against Member States that have not yet adopted any national rules.
Issue no. 381 - 8 December 2007
EU - Airline websites 'are misleading'
At least 200 European airline websites are misleading the consumer, a study by the European Commission has found. Websites are failing to show taxes and charges, and refusing to advertise the lowest fare prominently, according to the report. The Commission has refused to name any airlines involved in order to give them time to improve their service. see also
Consumers: EU crackdown on misleading airline ticket websites
(RAPID). See also
EU investigates airline ticket selling websites. Questions and answers
Press conference speaking points
by Meglena Kuneva, European Commissioner for Consumer Protection.
Issue no. 380 - 30 September 2007
EU - Consumer guarantee law may extend to software
Buying software or other digital goods as a consumer does not entitle an individual to the same rights under EU law that he or she enjoys when buying tangible products. But that could change following a European Parliament Resolution that endorsed a Green Paper on EU consumer laws .
Issue no. 379 - 2 September 2007
UK - C4 phone line move to cost it £3m
Channel 4 has responded to a spate of scandals over premium rate phone lines by announcing that it would no longer seek to make a profit from them - a decision that will deal a huge financial blow to the broadcaster. In a statement, Channel 4 said the move was an attempt to regain the trust of its audience and played down the financial impact, saying that it would cost the company only £3m in the current financial year. In fact, in the last full financial year, PRTS contributed "more than £10m" to overall pre-tax profits of £21.3m.
Issue no. 378 - 5 August 2007
OECD - Recommendation on Consumer Dispute Resolution and Redress
OECD countries have agreed a new approach to better protect the rights of consumers and make online shopping safer. They call on national authorities and business to make it easier, cheaper and quicker for people to resolve complaints and get compensation when they are unhappy with goods or services they have bought. The OECD
Recommendation on Consumer Dispute Resolution and Redress
offers a roadmap for consumer protection agencies to address the practical and legal obstacles that many consumers face when trying to exchange goods or get their money back from firms, in their own country or abroad.
UK - Britons misled over broadband speeds, says Which?
There is a huge gap between the broadband speeds providers are advertising and those that users are able to achieve at home, research by Which? showed. Which? claims that while many companies advertise speeds of up to 8Mbps (megabits per second) or faster, consumers are achieving an average speed of just 2.7Mbps, while some have experienced speeds as low as 0.09Mbps.
Issue no. 372 - 25 February 2007
EU - European Commission will overhaul consumer law to boost e-commerce
The European Commission will overhaul European contract law to make internet selling easier, more reliable and more efficient. The Commission has opened consultation on proposed changes that will affect eight EU Directives. The Commission will review all consumer contract law, which will involve a review of eight Directives. They are: the Unfair Contract Terms Directive and the Directive on Sale of Consumer Goods and Guarantees; the Distance Selling Directive; the Doorstep Selling Directive; the Package Travel Directive; the Timeshare Directive; the Directive on Injunctions; and the Price Indication Directive. See
Internet law professor looks at the fine print in Windows Vista
Vista, the latest version of Microsoft Windows has made its long awaited consumer debut. While reviews have focused chiefly on new functions, for the past few months the legal and technical communities have dug into Vista's "fine print". Those communities have raised red flags about Vista's legal terms and conditions as well as the technical limitations built in to the software at the insistence of the motion picture industry.
UK - Warning over online dating scams
People using online dating agencies are being warned to look out for fraudsters who want to steal their money. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT), as part of its scams awareness month, says dating frauds are becoming more common. The criminals create attractive online profiles for themselves, designed to attract a particular victim. They then use bogus sob stories to lure them into handing over personal information, such as their address and bank account details.
US - Sony CD row compensation agreed
Record label Sony BMG is to reimburse consumers up to $150 for damage to computers caused by CDs with hidden anti-piracy software. The Federal Trade Commission said the anti-piracy software wrongly limited the devices on which music could be played to those made by Sony or Microsoft. About seven million of the CDs were sold and the Digital Rights Management software installed itself on consumers' computers without their knowledge or consent.
Issue no. 371 - 28 January 2007
EU - European network will target email and internet scams
Email, phone, prize draw and web shopping scams are being targeted by a new coalition of European consumer groups for the first time. The bulk of the Consumer Protection Co-Operation (CPC) Regulation came into force across Europe on 29th December. Designed to tackle cross-border schemes to defraud consumers, the CPC Regulation focuses on some emerging scams, such as those using email and phone calls to mislead consumers.
Links to news items about legal and regulatory aspects of Internet and the information society, particularly those relating to information content, and market and technology.
QuickLinks consists of
a free newsletter appearing approximately every two to three weeks. The newsletter is distributed by electronic mail through an "announcement only" mailing list.
a Web site with frequent updates, an events page, news items organised by category as well as chronologically by issue and full text search.
QuickLinks is edited by Richard Swetenham
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Licence