QuickLinks - Consumer protection
Issue no. 292 - 23 November 2003
- UK - New directory services fail test
Nearly four out of 10 callers to the new directory enquiry services are being given the wrong number. A 'mystery shop', undertaken by the industry regulators Oftel and ICSTIS, revealed major failings in service standards across the board. Directory enquiry services were deregulated in August and have suffered since from bad publicity. However, the mystery shop of 40 providers found some to be cheaper than the old 192 directory service. see also Thus quits 118 service.
Issue no. 290 - 9 November 2003
- UK - E-mail scam targets banks
Customers of Nationwide, the UK's largest building society, have become the latest online banking consumers to be targeted by an e-mail scam. The scam, known as 'phishing', also targeted Barclays, Lloyds TSB, NatWest and Halifax customers. The e-mails ask customers to verify their details and handover pin numbers and passwords, through a replica website. They are sent randomly to consumers, in the hope that someone will divulge their banking details.
Issue no. 288 - 19 October 2003
- UK - Government Acts To Protect Consumers Against Unfair Betting
The UK Government will act to protect consumers from unfair betting. The Government will bring forward proposals for the new Gambling Commission to have powers to freeze and, where appropriate, void bets that it believes to be unfair. The proposals are a response to a new form of betting now happening on the Internet, but will apply to other betting operators too.
Issue no. 287 - 11 October 2003
- UK - Police warn world of domain scammer
Cambridgeshire Police has taken the unprecedented step of issuing a global warning about a company called Dot Com Avenue. The company is believed to have raked in hundreds of thousands of pounds by offering to pre-register .eu domain names for companies.
- US - Yahoo settles telemarketing dispute
Yahoo agreed to alter the way it markets to its customers as part of a settlement with New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Under the agreement, Yahoo will not phone people who have opted out of receiving telemarketing calls. However, the agreement does not bar the company from calling those who do choose to receive calls. Yahoo also agreed to provide 30 days' notice to its registered customers before making additional changes to its marketing policies. The notices must include a 'clear and conspicuous' hyperlink to a page on which consumers can make changes to how they receive marketing pitches. The page must include an option to opt out of any marketing initiatives entirely. In Re: Yahoo! Inc. (FindLaw News).
Issue no. 285 - 28 September 2003
- DE - Bundesweite Polizeiaktion gegen Abzocke mit 0190er-Nummern
Bei einer Aktion gegen kriminelle Abzocke mit 0190er-Nummern hat die Polizei 18 Wohnungen und Geschäftsräume in fünf Bundesländern durchsucht. Ein Verantwortlicher einer nordhessischen Internet-Firma wurde verhaftet, teilt das hessische Landeskriminalamt in Wiesbaden heute mit. Die Firma soll mindestens 280 Internetnutzer mit manipulierter Software um 37.000 Euro gebracht haben. Durchsuchungen gab es in Hessen, Berlin, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Rheinland-Pfalz und Sachsen-Anhalt.
Issue no. 281 - 31 August 2003
- UK - Oftel confirms new measures to protect consumers against nuisance calls
Oftel has confirmed new measures to protect consumers from the misuse of electronic communications networks or services that can result in the making of nuisance calls. Under the Communications Act, Oftel may now take action against any persons who misuse networks or services in a way that causes annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety, but falls short of being a criminal offence or breaking data protection legislation.
Issue no. 277 - 30 July 2003
- EU - Commission proposes network of national watchdogs for consumer fraud
Unscrupulous traders will no longer be able to evade consumer protection authorities by targeting consumers living in other EU countries. The Commission has adopted a proposal for a regulation which will link up national enforcement authorities and enable them to take co-ordinated action against rogue traders who abuse the freedom of the EU's Internal Market in order to deceive consumers. The regulation will remove existing barriers to information exchange and cooperation and empowers enforcement authorities to seek and obtain action from their counterparts in other Member States. The proposal will now be forwarded to the European Parliament and the Council as well as to the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. It will be adopted through co-decision and could enter into force in 2005.
Issue no. 276 - 23 June 2003
- EU - Commission proposes EU-wide ban on unfair commercial practices
The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Directive on unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices. Consumers' rights will be clearer and cross-border trade made simpler under the directive which establishes a single, common, general prohibition of unfair commercial practices distorting consumers' economic behaviour. This single set of common rules will replace the existing multiple volumes of national rules and court rulings on commercial practices. This will give consumers the same protection against sharp business practices and rogue traders whether they buy from the shop around the corner or from a website in another Member State. There are two main categories of unfairness: misleading and aggressive practices..
- OECD - 30 nations target cross-border Internet scams
Thirty onations announced the first multinational pact to fight cross-border fraud, which has grown sharply with the spread of the Internet. The agreement among the industrial nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development was a year in the making and was spearheaded by the United States, which has the most victims of cross-border fraud. The 30 mostly European and North American member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development agreed to work together to fight cross-border fraud, beef up their own consumer-protection laws where necessary, and make it easier for consumers to recover damages. see OECD Guidelines for Protecting Consumers from Fraudulent and Deceptive Commercial Practices Across Borders and Press Release.
Issue no. 275 - 14 June 2003
Issue no. 274 - 9 June 2003
- DE - Bundestag beschließt Schutz gegen Missbrauch von 0190-Nummern
Der Bundestag hat einstimmig ein Gesetz beschlossen, mit dem Verbraucher vor dem Missbrauch von 0190- und 0900-Nummern geschützt werden sollen. Die Anrufkosten für 0190- und 0900-Nummern werden auf maximal 2 Euro pro Minute begrenzt. Außerdem werden solche teuren Verbindungen künftig nach einer Stunde automatisch getrennt. Das Gesetz bedarf noch der Zustimmung des Bundesrates, es soll im Juli in Kraft treten.
Issue no. 271 - 18 May 2003
- UK - Virgin Wine gives consumers fairer online deal
Virgin Wine Online has amended or deleted terms and conditions regarding delivery and cancellation rights, and terms that limited Virgin Wine Online's liability. following concerns raised by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) .
- US - Gov't Cracks Down on Internet Scammers
Federal authorities have arrested 130 online scammers and seized more than $17 million in assets as part of a continuing assault on Internet crime. The sweep is part of "Operation E-Con," an ongoing investigation involving 89,000 victims and losses of more than $176 million. The crimes included multimillion-dollar swindles, online auction scams, identity theft, business-opportunity frauds, and intellectual property theft and piracy.
Issue no. 269 - 6 May 2003
Issue no. 267 - 21 April 2003
Issue no. 266 - 6 April 2003
- Warning on web travel deals
A co-ordinated international world-wide internet search has identified more than 50 UK travel websites which make potentially misleading claims. The OFT and 55 local trading standards offices were among 87 enforcement agencies in 24 countries who surfed the internet looking for potentially misleading claims about travel deals. The sweeps are organised by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), a network of consumer protection authorities in 31 countries.
Issue no. 265 - 29 March 2003
- US - Watchdogs: Cable gouges broadband users
U.S. consumer groups charged that cable companies were gouging customers who subscribe only to high-speed Internet service but not to cable television, and asked antitrust enforcers to investigate. The Consumer Federation of America and the Consumers Union asked the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the steep discounts offered when customers purchased both services constituted anticompetitive tying or predatory pricing.
Issue no. 263 - 16 March 2003
- EU - Commissioner David Byrne launches Consumer Affairs web site
David Byrne, the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, launched the European Commission's new multi-lingual Consumer Affairs web site to mark World Consumer Day, which takes place every year on 15 March. The "right to be informed" is one of the four fundamental consumer rights that World Consumer Day is designed to highlight. Commissioner Byrne emphasised the Commission's recognition of, and commitment to, this right.
Issue no. 261 - 2 March 2003
- CA - Canadian Code of Practice for Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce
The Canadian Code of Practice for Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce was approved in principle in January 2003. The Code is intended to establish benchmarks for good business practices for merchants conducting commercial activities with consumers online. From January to March 2003, the Code will undergo pilot testing by a number of industry sectors. The Code will then be reviewed and revised. The revised Code will be published in the autumn of 2003.
Issue no. 260 - 23 February 2003
Issue no. 259 - 9 February 2003
- DE - German govt. proposing limits on expensive web-dialers
(Washington Internet Daily)
The German Ministry of Economy & Labor finalized a draft law that would require transparent billing by providers of new Web dialing services. The new dialer services have to be registered with German regulatory authorities. Not only the content providers themselves, but also the network providers such as Deutsche Telekom (DT) would be responsible to show users the actual rates of the dial-up connection of the respective 0190- service.
- FR - Les fournisseurs d’accès sermonnés par la Commission des clauses abusives
(Forum des droits sur l’internet)
La Commission des clauses abusives a rendu public sa recommandation relative aux contrats de fourniture d’accès à l’internet. Après plusieurs années de travaux, ce document pointe du doigt 28 types de clauses en recommandant aux acteurs de les faire disparaître des conditions générales d’utilisation.
Issue no. 253 - 8 December 2002
- EU - Thinking of shopping cross border for Christmas presents? 10 tips for consumers
December 2002 is likely to see a record number of consumers taking advantage of the Internal Market and shopping cross border for their Christmas presents. To help guarantee a Happy Christmas for all Europe's consumers, Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne has published a list of the top 10 tips for cross border Christmas shopping.
- Japan halts mobile porn scam
Japan's parliament has outlawed a scam where unsuspecting callers are tricked into calling sex lines, and then charged vast amounts for the call. Con artists have used computers to call at random up to 3,000 mobile phone users per minute, only to hang up after just one ring. Curious phone users who ring back to try to identify the caller are played a pornographic message, or they are given information about pornographic services.
Issue no. 252 - 30 November 2002
- EU/US - Protecting Consumers From Fraud and Serious Deception Across Borders
The Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue urges the governments of the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) to support efforts by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to formulate guidelines that will encourage member countries to governments fail to protect consumers from fraud and serious deception or to assist victims in obtaining redress in the virtual marketplace.
- US - Bidder Beware: Toward a Fraud-Free Marketplace
In 2001, the Shidler Center and the High Tech Unit of the Washington Attorney General's Office Consumer Protection Division released "BidderBeware: Towards a Fraud-Free Marketplace in Internet Auctions". A newreport provides updated data concerning Internet auctions and includes interviews with the industry participants who had recommended a menu ofbest practices for consumers and businesses.
- US - California Firm to Settle Net Porn Scam
A California billing firm has agreed to give up $1.6 million to settle charges that it improperly billed thousands for Internet pornography, the Federal Trade Commission said.
Issue no. 251 - 24 November 2002
- US - Bidder Beware: Toward a Fraud-Free Marketplace
In 2001, the Shidler Center and the High Tech Unit of the Washingtonattorney General's Office Consumer Protection Division released "BidderBeware: Towards a Fraud-Free Marketplace in Internet Auctions". A newreport provides updated data concerning Internet auctions and includesinterviews with the industry participants who had recommended a menu ofbest practices for consumers and businesses.
Issue no. 250 - 17 November 2002
- EU - Survey - Unlocking the potential of cross-border shopping
The Commission has published two major surveys on cross-border shopping in the EU. The surveys look at both the consumer and business experience of, and attitudes to, cross-border shopping. They are relevant in the context of the Commission's Green Paper on Consumer Protection and follow-up communication. Harmonisation of regulations on commercial practices, advertising and other consumer protection regulation was cited as the most efficient of the options in facilitating cross-border sales and/or advertising (68.2% of businesses). See Fair commercial practices.
- UK - Consumers warned of hi-tech scams
Growing numbers of consumers, particularly young people, are becoming the victims of swindles via email, text messaging and fax, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said. Unscrupulous firms often use bogus prize draws and special offers to entice recipients to reply, it said, and as the popularity of text messaging grows among children, this group is likely to be heavily targeted.
Issue no. 249 - 10 November 2002
- Can the Web Be Believed? Not Always, Study Find
A new study goes to painstaking lengths to show that consumers should not believe everything they read on Web sites, even from sites claiming to be authoritative sources. Consumers International, a federation of consumer organizations across 115 countries, investigated 460 Web sites dealing with health, financial services and so-called "deal-finder" sites to test their credibility quotient. In a separate study, commissioned by advocacy group Consumer WebWatch, experts in the health and financial fields were asked to comment on which Web sites they consider to be authoritative. see also the consumer-driven study How Do People Evaluate a Web Site's Credibility? Results from a Large Study.
- EU - Distance marketing Directive
Directive 2002/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 September 2002 concerning the distance marketing of consumer financial services and amending Council Directive 90/619/EEC and Directives 97/7/EC and 98/27/EC OJ L 271 09/10/2002 pp. 16 - 24
Issue no. 247 - 19 October 2002
- AU - ACCC warning to domain name resellers
(Sydney Morning Herald)
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned domain name resellers against misleading and deceptive conduct. This follow orders obtained in Federal Court proceedings brought by the ACCC against a comapny which had sent unsolicited invoices to small businesses throughout Australia seeking payment for domain name services including the registration and renewal of domain names. The orders include injunctions restraining Internet Name Group from engaging in conduct that is misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive, in connection with Internet domain names.
- US - California - Service providers win one, lose one
Gov. Gray Davis has signed a bill that requires e-mail service providers to give 30 days' notice before shutting down e-mail accounts. The law does not apply in situations where an account holder has violated the terms of service or when service is interrupted for reasons beyond the e-mail provider's control. The governor subsequently vetoed a more sweeping bill that would have enacted the same restriction on ISPs (Internet service providers). The governor called the bill "well intentioned" but said it failed to provide sufficiently for cases of consumer misconduct or technical mishap.
Issue no. 245 - 15 September 2002
- UK - Freeserve ads 'misleading', says ASA
UK ISP Freeserve has been ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority to drop its current claims that customers can surf for " long as (they) like" after rival Internet service provider BTopenworld lodged a complaint.
Issue no. 244 - 7 September 2002
- ES - La Guardia Civil desarticula una red de defraudadores que insertaba publicidad pornográfica en chats de menores
La Guardia Civil ha desarticulado una red de defraudadores que insertaban publicidad de páginas web con contenido pornográfico en canales de chat a los que tenían acceso menores. Los implicados insertaban en el chat expresiones pornográficas con enlaces directos a páginas web de contenido adulto, utilizando para ello un programa que, haciéndose pasar por un usuario, se encargaba de la conexión a un chat o a dichas páginas mediante una llamada telefónica a un 906. De este modo, el fraude iba dirigido contra los menores que, atraídos por la facilidad que ofrecía este sistema, accedieron a las citadas páginas, en las que no era necesario ningún tipo de identificación ni pago a través de otros medios, ocasionando una elevada factura telefónica a sus familias.
- UK/US joint action to stop misleading domain name ads
In the first case of its kind the Office of Fair Trading has stopped two companies from publishing misleading advertisements for website domain names with suffixes such as .brit, .usa, .scot and .sex that are difficult to view on the world wide web. The OFT worked alongside the US Federal Trade Commission on this case.
Issue no. 240 - 14 July 2002
- UK - Getting tough with online fraudsters
The UK Government is to get tough with rogue online traders in an attempt to make e-commerce more attractive to consumers. Trading standards offices around the country are being given £500,000 to identify internet scams and fraudsters.
- USA - Your PC's enemy within
The Wild West days of cyberspace are over -and, like it or not, it's time for government to change its laissez-faire attitude toward the Internet and create laws that clearly prevent unscrupulous businesses from preying on unsuspecting consumers and seizing control of computers.
Issue no. 239 - 30 June 2002
- US - VeriSign backs down over phony alerts
VeriSign has agreed to stop sending false notices that tell customers of rival registrars their domain names will soon expire. The company, which is the leading registrar of domain names, signed a federal court order saying it will not send bogus messages warning customers that their domain names were about to expire and offering to sign up the Web addresses with VeriSign. The company also agreed not to send other official-looking notices that appear to be from the current registrar in an attempt to convince people to switch to VeriSign.
Issue no. 238 - 22 June 2002
- US - Court opens Baby Bells to lawsuits
(Wall Street Journal)
A federal appeals court in New York ruled that consumers can sue their local Baby Bell telephone companies for antitrust violations, potentially exposing the much-criticized phone companies to a slew of lawsuits.
Issue no. 236 - 8 June 2002
- U.S. to Give Travel Web Sites A Close Look
As the Internet becomes more of a destination of choice for consumers looking to book airline tickets, hotel rooms or car rentals, the government is considering whether the Web sites should be regulated and whether they are indeed offering the lowest fares.
Issue no. 235 - 20 May 2002
- EU - Commission adopts new Consumer Policy Strategy
A high common level of consumer protection, effective enforcement of consumer protection rules and the involvement of consumer organisations in EU policies - these are the three objectives of the new consumer policy strategy of the Commission.
- EU - MEPs adopt rules for selling financial services through phone and Internet
On 14 May 2002, the European Parliament adopted, in second reading, on the Council common position on the Directive concerning distance selling of financial services. This Directive will regulate the marketing of financial services, such as credit cards and pension plans, through the phone, fax, Internet, and traditional mail. It will ban the use of unsolicited e-mail and "inertia marketing", which involves sending unsolicited financial services to consumers and charging them for these before the consumer has agreed to buy them. see also Distance marketing of financial services (RAPID).
- US - Judge Orders VeriSign To Stop Marketing Campaign
Internet domain naming giant VeriSign was ordered to halt a direct-mail campaign one day after BulkRegister filed a lawsuit against its No. 1 rival seeking to stop the mailing. BulkRegister alleged that VeriSign's "Domain Name Expiration Notice" direct-marketing campaign is deceptive.
Issue no. 234 - 11 May 2002
- USA - Juno Settles With NY Over Online Supercomputer Project
In an action aimed at sending a message to Internet service providers across the country, New York's attorney general announced a settlement with Juno Online Services over "disturbing" changes to the ISP's service agreement with customers.
Issue no. 233 - 4 May 2002
- Australia - Govt Seeks Rules Against 'Internet Dumping'
The Australian government has proposed powers for the nation's telecommunications regulator that would allow it to tackle the practice of "Internet dumping." Internet dumping occurs when a Net user's modem is disconnected from the local call to an ISP and reconnected, usually secretly, to an international or premium-rate phone number.
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