(Google Public Policy Blog) We're releasing the latest in a series of online safety videos as part of our Digital Literacy campaign. As we engage more students, parents and teachers about how to make good decisions online, many have noted how difficult it is to identify and avoid online scams. We know how tricky scammers can be. Our new video, Steering Clear of Cyber Tricks, shares some tips on how to avoid tricky online scams.
(BBC) More than 1,200 websites that claim to sell cut-price designer goods have been shut down in the biggest police operation of its kind in the UK. The 1,219 sites, which advertise brands including Ugg boots, Tiffany jewellery and Links of London, were removed by the Metropolitan Police. Customers who buy from the sites either receive nothing, counterfeit goods, or have their credit card details stolen.
(BBC) 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.
(OUT-LAW News) 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.
(RAPID) 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.
(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
(Audtralian IT) 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.
(RAPDI) The European Commission has launched the eYouGuide, 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.
(RAPID) 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.
(OUT-LAW News) The European Parliament has voted in favour of reforms of telecommunications laws that members hope will boost competition and provide consumers with clearer information. The Parliament rejected some of the measures proposed by the European Commission. The alternative plan created a co-regulatory body that would consult national telecoms regulators and the Commission but would not fall under direct Commission control. see also Commission reaction.
(Center For Democracy and Technology)
Online Behavioral Advertising:
1) Using ISP Data for Behavioral Advertising Raises Critical Privacy and Internet Functionality Concerns
2) Existing Implementations of ISP-Based Behavioral Advertising May Violate Federal Law
3) House Investigation Reveals Problematic Behavioral Advertising Practices
(RAPID) 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.
(Sunday Times) 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.
(OUT-LAW News) 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.
(BBC) Credit companies are using the Facebook social networking site to target young people, a debt charity has warned. Credit Action says adverts promising cheap loans for people with poor credit ratings are appearing on the site and many break advertising regulations. In particular, they are promoting two new products - payday loans secured against a salary or logbook loans secured against a car.
(RAPID) 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.
(BBC) The EU's consumer commissioner has warned she will punish airlines that fail to improve their online booking websites within a year. One-third of European consumers are being misled or cheated when they buy flights online, an EU study found. See Press conference speaking points of Meglena KUNEVA, European Consumer Commissioner, Airline Ticket Sweep Investigation.
(Guardian) Food and drink companies should be banned from marketing unhealthy snacks and drinks to young children via new media such as social networking sites and text messaging, a coalition of international consumer groups and health bodies recommends. The group is urging governments to adopt a code that they say would curb the rising obesity rates among children. The code would restrict junk food marketing, including outlawing the use of cartoon characters, celebrity tie-ins, free gifts and competitions aimed at younger audiences.
(BBC) 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.
(RAPID) 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. o 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.
(RAPDI) The European Commission has adopted a proposal to simplify and modernise the two-decade-old rules for computerised reservation systems (CRS). These systems are used by travel agents to book airline tickets on behalf of their customers. The revised rules will allow CRSs and subscribing travel agents to expand their offer and better compete in the airline distribution market. See Q&A on the revised rules for computerised airline ticket reservation systems
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 .
A Belgian court ruling would force internet service providers into conducting "invisible and illegal" checks on internet users' actions, according to Belgian ISP Scarlet, who were recently ordered by a Belgian court to block its users from engaging in illegal file-sharing. It has now lodged an appeal against that ruling. "This measure is nothing else than playing Big Brother on the Internet,'' said Scarlet managing director. "If we don't challenge it today, we leave the door open to permanent, and invisible and illegal, checks of personal data."
Another file-sharing defendant who says she has never installed or used file-sharing software is fighting back against the RIAA, accusing the music industry of waging war in the US court system to "shore up the American recording industry's failing business model."
(BBC News) Columnist Bill Thompson says firms should tell customers when their computer security has been breached. UK organisations have no legal duty to tell if personal data has been compromised. The situation may change, if the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology has its way. They have spent the last year looking at internet security and how it affects us all and they published their final report, called Personal Internet Security.
(FT) 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.
UK - Phone-ins - Regaining viewers? trust is the real issue
(FT) Despite a breakdown in trust and an outbreak of "format fatigue" over Big Brother, there is no end in sight for interactive "reality" television, two leading broadcasters have told the FT. With Channel 4 announcing last week that it would stop using premium-rate telephone services for profit and ITV awaiting the outcome of a report into its phone-ins, the reliance of commercial television on participatory programming is under the spotlight.
(Guardian) 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.
(OECD) 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.