QuickLinks - Consumer protection
QuickLinks - Consumer protection
Issue no. 370 - 3 December 2006
- US - Company fined $3m for adware use
An online advertising company is to pay $3m (£2m) for "unfairly and deceptively" downloading its software onto people's computers. US-based Zango, the FTC said, installed adware more than 70 million times, causing 6.9 billion pop-up ads.
Issue no. 368 - 15 October 2006
- EU - European Commission to review Distance Selling Directive
Consumer confidence in cross-border retailing may have been undermined by the rash of laws that followed the European Commission's Distance Selling Directive, according to Europe's consumer protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. The Commission has announced that it will conduct a review of the Directive to assess how much it needs to be updated. The Directive, which is critical in laying down the legal parameters of internet retailing in Europe, was passed in 1997.
Issue no. 367 - 23 September 2006
- UK - Broadband firms given speed warning
The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that companies marketing 8Mb broadband services will have to make very clear that top speeds will 'vary significantly' depending on where customers live, following a complaint from NTL against rival Bulldog.
- UK - Forbidden text message draws £30,000 fine
A mobile service provider has been fined £30,000 by the premium rate phone regulator over a text message service which charged customers without their permission. Appearing to be a network update, the message charged each user 50p without their knowledge. Opera Telecom has been fined by ICSTIS, though it was only the service provider which administered the sending of the messages and not the company with which they originated. Only service providers, and not content providers, are liable for ICSTIS fines. ICSTIS will be introducing a new code of practice this year which would allow it to fine information providers directly, provided they accept responsibility for breaches.
Issue no. 364 - 7 July 2006
- FR - Services télécoms et SMS surtaxés épinglés par le CSA
Le Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel met en garde les chaînes de télévision. Elles doivent veiller à ce que les pubs qui incitent les consommateurs à envoyer des SMS ou appeler des numéros surtaxés, affichent clairement les tarifs à l´antenne.
- FR - UFC-Que Choisir multiplie les procédures contre Alice
L'association UFC-Que Choisir va déposer une centaine de plaintes dans toute la France contre Alice. Elle reproche au fournisseur d´accès de ne pas tenir ses engagements commerciaux auprès de ses abonnés.
- UK - Regulator awards itself powers to ban SMS scammers
The premium rate phone regulator is overhauling its policies so that it can take more direct action against rule breaking content providers. Mobile phone content providers who break the ICSTIS rules could be banned from operating any premium rate services in new rules to be introduced in September.
Issue no. 363 - 25 June 2006
- Norway, Sweden, Denmark may fine Apple over iTunes
Apple may be fined for operating iTunes in Norway, Sweden and Denmark in the aftermath of a Norwegian Ombudsman ruling that says Apple is doing business illegally. The Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman has just ruled that the terms and conditions for iTunes are unlawful and has given the service until 21st June to amend them. After that date it will be fined unless it changes its practices. Parallel cases in Sweden and Denmark could lead to fines across Scandinavia not only for Apple's iTunes but also for Microsoft's MSN.
- UK - Ofcom research into consumer protection on the internet
Ofcom today published research which reveals the importance of effective industry self-regulation and consumer empowerment in addressing consumer protection issues on the internet. The report examines the broad range of processes used in the UK and other countries to address a number of consumer protection issues online, including illegal or harmful internet content.
Issue no. 362 - 11 June 2006
Issue no. 356 - 27 February 2006
- UK - ASA finds againist Wanadoo
In an adjudication from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Wanadoo has been criticised for giving the impression in advertisements that a broadband service of up to 8 Mbps was generally available to customers.
Issue no. 355 - 5 February 2006
- UK - ASA slams anonymous 'tell a friend' email
Viral marketing is open to abuse. So when a website that emulates Friends Reunited offered a 'tell a friend' service, the UK's advertising watchdog decided it was too great a risk to allow emails to be sent to strangers without naming the friend.
- UK - Consumer interest toolkit
The Ofcom Consumer Panel has launched a toolkit to help Ofcom and other regulators assess whether they have identified and addressed consumer interests in forming and implementing policy. The toolkit covers a series of questions that regulators can ask themselves to ensure that consumers are appropriately considered throughout a particular project or by the organisation as a whole.
- UK - Regulator bans misleading premium-rate services
Premium rate regulator ICSTIS has ordered premium-rate service providers to stop providing certain sexual entertainment and chat services that are billed by means of premium rate text messaging.
Issue no. 352 - 18 December 2005
- BEUC in defence of consumer rights online
Issue no. 347 - 19 October 2005
Issue no. 345 - 25 September 2005
- AT - SMS blocking service
Premium-rate SMS services have attracted a number of complaints and a lot of media attention in Austria. Saferinternet.at [the Austrian node of the INSAFE European awareness network co-funded by the Safer Internet programme] has worked with partners to develop a service to block unsolicited commercial messages.
Issue no. 343 - 4 September 2005
- DE - Jamba has new trouble with consumer protection advocates
The brash and at times aggressive advertising as well as the business practices of Jamba, VeriSign's successful ring tone division, are drawing more and more criticism. Not only is the company's brazen advertising beginning to grate on the nerves of many viewers of the music channel MTV, serious problems are also beginning to emerge because children and adolescents are spending vast amounts of money on downloading individual ring tones or on taking out subscriptions for batches of them, thereby as a consequence running into considerable financial difficulties.
- UK - Ofcom approves slowdown for premium rate payments
A proposal from premium rate regulator ICSTIS to slow the transfer of money between phone networks and those running premium rate services was approved by communications watchdog Ofcom. The slowdown, which takes the form of an emergency amendment to the ICSTIS Code of Practice, will come into effect on 15th September. ICSTIS and Ofcom have also separately published details of a new Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations. This sets out the clear division of responsibility between ICSTIS and Ofcom.
Issue no. 341 - 9 July 2005
- UK - Fines up for rogue internet firms
Fines for duping consumers into using premium rate internet connections are to increase, the Department of Trade and Industry has announced. Companies who break the rules will be fined up to £250,000, up from the previous maximum of £100,000. The rise comes after a review by communications watchdog Ofcom.
- UK - Regulator probes Crazy Frog
The premium rate services regulator has launched an investigation into a company behind the Crazy Frog phenomenon, after complaints that children have been duped into signing up to an expensive subscription service. ICSTIS, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services, has received over 100 complaints from people who thought they had bought the ringtone at a price of £3, only to find that they had also unwittingly signed up for a subscription service costing £3 per week.
Issue no. 339 - 29 May 2005
- FR - L'UFC-Que choisir et Devedjian mettent à l'index les pratiques des FAI
L'association de consommateurs et le ministre délégué à l'Industrie souhaitent améliorer la relation entre clients et fournisseurs d´accès internet. La situation est grave: le nombre de litiges traités par l'UFC-Que Choisir a augmenté de 56% en 6 mois. Hotlines injoignables et inefficaces, clauses abusives dans les contrats, litiges clients en augmentation drastique: les fournisseurs d'accès internet sont montrés du doigt par l'UFC-Que choisir et le ministère des Finances et de l'Industrie.
Issue no. 338 - 7 May 2005
- FR - Tele2 montré du doigt pour des méthodes d'abonnement forcé
Des dizaines de consommateurs se sont plaints auprès de l'UFC-Que Choisir d'être devenus des clients de Tele2 à leur insu. Le scénario serait toujours le même. La victime reçoit un courrier la félicitant de s'être abonnée à Tele2 alors qu'elle n'a effectué aucune démarche auprès de l'opérateur. Le plus souvent, elle a été sollicitée à son domicile ou à la sortie d'un supermarché par un vendeur qui lui a fait signer un document. Présenté comme une simple demande d'information ou un bon de passage, il s'agissait en fait d'un contrat. L'autre technique employée consiste à enregistrer des clients en récupérant leur adresse, nom et numéro de téléphone (l'annuaire suffit), et en faisant une fausse signature. Certains consommateurs se sont en effet plaints d'avoir été inscrits chez Tele2 sans n'avoir jamais été contactés.
Issue no. 336 - 3 April 2005
- DE - Verbraucherschützer verklagen bild.de wegen Schleichwerbung
Die Verbraucherschützer von der Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (vzbv) haben das Online-Portal bild.de der BILD-Zeitung wegen Schleichwerbung verklagt. Nach Ansicht der Organisation hat BILD auf der Webseite für Autos geworben, ohne dass dies explizit als Werbung kenntlich gemacht wurde.
Issue no. 333 - 2 March 2005
- EU - Unfair commercial practices: Parliament approval of new law
The Commission has welcomed the vote by the European Parliament approving a new EU law to ban pressure selling and misleading marketing. The new legislation to harmonise Member States' rules on unfair commercial practices was proposed by the Commission in June 2003. It will clarify consumers' rights and facilitate cross-border trade by establishing common, EU-wide rules against aggressive or misleading business-to-consumer marketing. see also Questions and answers on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
- EU to outlaw phone lottery scams
Legislation to be voted through the European Parliament will make telephone lottery companies illegal throughout the EU. The legislation is targeted mainly at the UK, where the Office of Fair Trading has identified such scams as one of the country's top 10 frauds. Unwanted automated phone calls telling people taht they have won a prize if they return the call. But before they can claim anything, people are told to send money to pay for administration fees and taxes - and all, of course, for a prize that doesn't exist. The UK Office of Fair Trading believes the practice is netting fraudsters up to £150m a year.
Issue no. 331 - 13 February 2005
- UK - BT flight offer complaints upheld by watchdog
The Advertising Standards Authority has criticised BT's offer of a free flight for every new broadband customer. BT suffered a stinging rebuke from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for the poor running of its free flights promotion for new broadband customers. The ASA upheld 11 separate complaints about the offer, after establishing that it had been so badly administered that some BT customers hadn't been able to take the flights to which they were entitled.
Issue no. 328 - 4 January 2005
Issue no. 325 - 28 November 2004
- EU - New Europe-wide support network for consumers
David Byrne, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, announced plans for a new EU-wide network to ensuring individual citizens know their rights as consumers and have an easy access to redress. The new network will be created by merging two existing networks: the European Consumer Centres or 'Euroguichets', which currently provide information and assistance on cross-border issues; and the European Extra-Judicial Network which help consumers to resolve their disputes through alternative dispute resolution schemes such as mediators or arbitrators. The new network is due to be launched in early 2005.
Issue no. 324 - 21 November 2004
- UK - Distance selling rules tweaked by the DTI
Changes to the information requirements of the UK's Distance Selling Regulations were announced by the Department of Trade and Industry, intended to save businesses throughout the UK time, money and resources.Currently, businesses selling services over the internet, by phone or mail order have to provide customers with key written details before the contract is agreed. From April 2005, however, businesses will be able to deliver this key information at any time from when an order is placed until the service finishes.
Issue no. 323 - 24 October 2004
- UK - Watchdog takes on rogue diallers
Action is to be taken against firms involved in scams that divert dial-up internet connections to premium rate numbers without users' knowledge. The UK watchdog for premium rate phone services, Icstis, is shutting down all such services that operate without its permission. The action follows a surge in complaints from members of the public.
Issue no. 322 - 17 October 2004
- UK - Internet sweep closes eight UK sites
An internet sweep by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) has forced the closure or amendment of 320 sites, eight of which are UK-based, which were found to contain cross-border scams or misleading or fraudulent internet adverts. ICPEN, founded in 1992, consists of consumer enforcement agencies from 31 countries co-ordinating cross border activity and sharing best practice.
Issue no. 321 - 10 October 2004
- EU - New legislation to crack down on rogue traders
The Council of Ministers formally approved legislation to create an EU-wide network of national enforcement authorities capable of taking co-ordinated action against rogue traders who abuse the freedom of the EU's Internal Market in order to run cross border scams. The Regulation will remove barriers to information exchange and cooperation. It also empowers enforcement authorities to seek and obtain action from their counterparts in other Member States. The new EU-wide enforcement network will start work in 2006. Council text of Regulation on Consumer Protection Cooperation. See also Legislative history and Commission Web page.
Issue no. 320 - 25 September 2004
- IE - Modem fraud forces Irish call ban
Direct dial phone calls from Ireland to 13 other countries are to be blocked because of an internet fraud. Hundreds of Irish phone users have run up large bills due to auto-dialling fraud or modem hijacking. The criminal installs software on computers without the knowledge of the user. The settings of that computer's internet dial-up are altered, so that when the internet is dialled up, it rings a foreign and highly expensive number. A portion of the cost of that call can then be siphoned off by the criminal.
Issue no. 318 - 5 September 2004
- DE - Abzocke läuft über Premium-SMS
Bis zu fünf Euro nehmen Klingeltonanbieter ihren meist jugendlichen Kunden ab. Weil 0190er-Nummern für die Abzocke nicht mehr taugen, werden die Charthits über Premium-SMS verkauft. Verbraucherschützer schlagen Alarm, weil Abonnements als Spartarif getarnt werden.
Issue no. 317 - 22 August 2004
- UK - Advertising ruling raps broadband definition
The UK's advertising watchdog has waded into the debate over what exactly constitutes broadband. The Advertising Standards Association (ASA) ruled that net provider Wanadoo could not use the phrase 'full speed' in ads for its 512Kbps service. The watchdog said it would mislead consumers into thinking this was the fastest internet connection available.
- UK - OFT action over data protection scam
The UK Office of Fair Trading has taken action against a businessman who was sending bogus data protection "registration" demands. The official-looking notices used a logo similar to the Information Commissioner's. The mailings misled the businesses receiving them to believe that they were under a legal obligation to register with the sender immediately at a cost of £49.
- UK - Rogue net diallers prompt review
The regulation of premium rate, 090, phone services is to be reviewed by the communications watchdog Ofcom, in an attempt to cut fraudulent activity. Of particular concern recently has been the rise in complaints to the premium rate watchdog, Icstis, about rogue internet diallers. These automatically change a user's net provider, dialling up a premium rate number when they next go online.
Issue no. 315 - 18 July 2004
Issue no. 314 - 24 June 2004
- EU - Media Freedom versus Consumer Protection ? How they can be reconciled
Speech by David Byrne, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Association of German Newspaper Publishers, Media Forum North-Rhine Westphalia Cologne, 21 June 2004. [Ed: worth reading - the Commissioner used the platform to make some fairly pointed remarks about German press coverage of Commission consumer protction proposals]
- FR - AOL fined for 'abusive and illegal' contracts
A French court has fined Internet provider America Online for 'abusive and illegal' clauses in customer's contracts, the French Consumers Union (UFC) has said. The UFC, along with its magazine Que Choisir, sued AOL-France over 38 clauses it alleged were unsustainable under French law. The court found that 21 clauses were abusive and 11 illegal. UFC Que Choisir / AOL Bertelsmann Online France Tribunal de grande instance de Nanterre 1ère chambre A Jugement du 2 juin 2004.
Issue no. 312 - 6 June 2004
- FSM: Dialer-Angebot speziell für Kinder rechtswidrig
von RA Dr. Martin Bahr, Kanzlei Heyms & Dr. Bahr. Die Beschwerdestelle der Freiwilligen Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Dienstleister (FSM) hatte darüber zu entscheiden, ob ein Dialer-Angebot, das sich vorwiegend an Kinder richtet, rechtmäßig ist. Die FSM ist ein eingetragener Verein, der 1997 von Medienverbänden und Unternehmen der Online-Wirtschaft gegründet wurde. Die Selbstkontrollorganisation bietet jedermann die Möglichkeit, sich über strafbare oder jugendgefährdende Inhalte im Netz zu beschweren oder Fragen zum Thema Jugendschutz im Internet zu stellen. Ein Mitglied der FSM bietet auf einer Webseite, die als überwiegende Zielgruppe Kinder hat, kostenpflichtige Dialer an. Die Beschwerdestelle des FSM sieht darin einen Verstoß gegen § 6 Abs.2 S.1; Abs.4 JMStV, wonach es verboten ist, die Unerfahrenheit von Jugendlichen auszunutzen. Entscheidung.
Issue no. 311 - 31 May 2004
- UK - £450,000 fine for text spammers
The UK watchdog for premium rate phone numbers yesterday imposed a record collective fine of £450,000 on six overseas companies that had sent spam and scam text messages encouraging consumers to call premium rate numbers.
Issue no. 303 - 29 February 2004
- UK - ICSTIS imposes £75,000 fine for X-rated spam scam
A US-based firm has landed a hefty fine for sending XXX junk e-mails to thousands in the UK. The unsolicited messages came with a sexually explicit attachment. When opened, users thought a 'click me' button would close it. Instead it led them to a site accessed through a premium rate phone number. The UK's premium rate watchdog, Icstis, had more than 1,000 complaints about the e-mails and said the company breached a number of regulations. Users were charged £1.50, but continued to be billed even if they went to another website. The call only disconnected after users logged off net. The £75,000 fine equals the largest ever handed out by Icstis, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services.
Issue no. 295 - 21 December 2003
- US - FCC issues first 'do not call' warning
U.S. regulators issued their first citation for violations of the 'do not call' registry, warning a California company that it would face fines if it continued to call numbers on the list.
Issue no. 294 - 14 December 2003
- DE - Regulierungsbehörde weist Dialer in Schranken
Ab dem 14. Dezember 2003 dürfen kostenpflichtige Dialer nur noch über die Rufnummerngasse 0900 9 betrieben werden. Darauf hat die Regulierungsbehörde für Telekommunikation und Post (Reg TP) hingewiesen. Wenn der Verbraucher sicher ist, dass er keine kostenpflichtigen Dialer anwählen möchte, kann er die entsprechende Rufnummerngasse sperren lassen.
Issue no. 293 - 7 December 2003
- UK - Viewers claim Intel Everest ad is misleading
The UK television watchdog is investigating an advert for computer giant Intel showing mountaineers on Everest accessing the internet via a wireless laptop after almost 100 viewers complained it was misleading. he advert shows a climber watching heart-warming footage of loved ones on his Centrino computer. The viewers complained wireless internet connection is sometimes tricky in the UK, let alone halfway towards the world's highest peak. The Independent Television Commission has already received 92 complaints.
Issue no. 292 - 23 November 2003
- FR- L'ancien PDG de pere-noel.fr condamné à 30 mois de prison ferme
Alexandre Fur, l'ancien PDG de la société de vente en ligne pere-noel.fr, a été condamné à 30 mois de prison ferme et 36.000 euros d'amende pour 'publicité mensongère' et 'tromperie'. Un mandat d'arrêt a été délivré contre lui. Ce polytechnicien de 34 ans avait été jugé par défaut le 18 septembre dernier par le tribunal correctionnel de Saint-Etienne. Une instruction avait été ouverte après 1.270 plaintes d'internautes n'ayant pas reçu les articles commandés dans les conditions annoncées par le cybermarchand. Environ 250 plaignants, qui s'étaient constitués partie civile, reçoivent une moyenne de 300 euros de dédommagement chacun.
- UK - BT Broadband tops complaint table
BT Openworld and Broadband are proportionally more complained about than any other UK internet service providers, according to official data. Oftel, the telecoms industry regulator, received 0.7 complaints per 1,000 internet customers for BT, which was more than double the market average. Pipex and Tiscali were also worse than average among leading ISPs. There were fewest complaints about services provided by AOL, Freeserve and Telewest.
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
QuickLinks is edited by Richard Swetenham firstname.lastname@example.org
- a free newsletter appearing approximately every two to three weeks. The newsletter is distributed by electronic mail through an "announcement only" mailing list.
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