(Guardian) The debate over how to protect children from sexualisation intensified as David Cameron promised to clamp down on irresponsible advertising agencies, and the government indicated that it plans to tighten regulation of online adverts targeting children. Cameron announced that a Tory administration would withdraw all government advertising for three years from agencies that design adverts aggressively marketing their products to children. The Tories would ban the practice of peer-to-peer marketing techniques targeted at children, and also work with headteachers to terminate contracts between schools and vending machine firms. Ben Bradshaw, the culture secretary, and Ed Balls, the children's secretary, met the Advertising Standards Authority last month to impress upon the body the need to regulate advertising aimed at children on the internet. The committee of advertising practice is expected to announce next month that it will extend the ASA's remit to the internet.
(BBC) Virtual goods such as weapons or digital bottles of champagne traded in the US could be worth up to $5bn in the next five years, experts predict. In Asia, sales are already around the $5bn mark and rapidly growing. For many, virtual goods are one of the hottest trends in technology and are fuelling huge growth in the social gaming sector.
(RAPID) A joint statement setting out general principles that would underpin the online distribution of music in the future and so lead to improved online music opportunities for European consumers was signed by participants at the fourth meeting of the Roundtable on the Online Distribution of Music, chaired by European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes on 19 th October 2009. The participants at the Roundtable were Amazon, BEUC, EMI, iTunes, Nokia, PRS for Music, SACEM, STIM and Universal. Following the Roundtable, a number of participants announced concrete steps and commitments that should result in improved access of European consumers to music online.
(RAPID) There are widespread problems with refusals of orders for EU consumers trying to purchase goods online in another Member state, according to a new European Commission report on cross border consumer e-commerce. An extensive independent mystery shopping exercise was carried out for the Commission where shoppers across the EU tried to purchase a list of 100 popular products ?for example cameras, CDs, books, clothes - from a cross border provider. Over 11,000 test orders were carried out. The research found that 60% of cross border transactions could not be completed by consumers because the trader did not ship the product to their country or did not offer adequate means for cross border payment.
(Economist) Mobile phones have transformed lives in the poor world. Mobile money could have just as big an impact. mobile phones have evolved in a few short years to become tools of economic empowerment for the world's poorest people. These phones compensate for inadequate infrastructure, such as bad roads and slow postal services, allowing information to move more freely, making markets more efficient and unleashing entrepreneurship. All this has a direct impact on economic growth: an extra ten phones per 100 people in a typical developing country boosts GDP growth by 0.8 percentage points, according to the World Bank. More than 4 billion handsets are now in use worldwide, three-quarters of them in the developing world (see our special report). Even in Africa, four in ten people now have a mobile phone.
(BBC) A rising number of British women are working as webcam models on the internet. Market analysts say the overall webcam market is now worth more than a billion pounds, with online sex shows a big part of it. Industry insiders say there's been a rise in applications, partly fuelled by the recession, with hundreds of British women signing up to UK websites each month, many more internationally. They appear live on webcams that can be accessed on computers around the world.
(EUOBSERVER) The EU's top court ruled that national governments can uphold domestic restrictions on online gambling and ban foreign websites if the intention is to stop fraud and crime. In a case brought by Austrian online betting provider Bwin against the Portuguese state lottery, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the state monopoly's restrictions "may be regarded as justified by the objective of combating fraud and crime. The ruling is a setback for online gambling groups, which have been pushing for an EU-wide open market in this field.
(TechCrunch) Looking over the top 10 paid iPhone apps list, I noticed one called Offender Locator. It's an app to show you registered sex offenders living around you. While all 50 states require that sexual offenders register themselves, and allow anyone to access the information online, most people never look at it. The app allows you to see a list of offenders based on your current location (using the iPhone's location services), any contact's address, or it allows you to manually enter an address. The app then scours the database and lists the sexual offenders based on their proximity to the location you gave. You can click on any of these names to get a picture of the person, their information like date of birth, height, weight, and a picture. And you can also see the specific sexual crime they were charged with.
(RAPID) The European Commission has published its report on US laws on remote gambling and their enforcement against EU companies. This report is the outcome of an investigation into United States measures affecting foreign suppliers of Internet gambling services. The report concludes that the US measures constitute an obstacle to trade that is inconsistent with WTO rules. As a result, WTO proceedings would be justified. At the same time, the report suggests that the issue should be addressed with the US Administration, with a view to finding a negotiated solution. See also Fact Sheet: Trade Barriers Regulation report on US Internet gambling laws
(BBC) A private members bill going through the House of Lords is calling for it to be mandatory for web retailers to adopt age verification systems. The bill on age-checking has the backing of charities who say it is too easy for children to buy alcohol, knives and violent video games online. A check on twelve sites found that thorough checks were not being done. The Online Purchasing of Goods and Services (Age Verification) Bill has been proposed by Baroness Massey and calls for "robust" checking systems to be used by any site selling age-restricted goods. The age-checking systems would have to be used if one of 20 separate products were sold including knives, alcohol, tobacco, age-restricted video games and DVDs, solvents and spray paints. Trading standards officers from Greenwich Council carried out tests on a number of websites to check their age verification processes. In a supervised test, a 16-year-old bought pre-paid credit cards and then went online to see if he could buy age-restricted goods with it. The credit card was registered with the minor's real date of birth and address. The teenager managed to buy knives, drink, and 18-rated DVDs and games from 12 separate online retailers.
(RAPID) A new report on Barriers to E-commerce, presented by EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, shows that online shopping is increasingly popular in the EU, but warns that barriers to cross border trade are holding back its development. The report presents a detailed analysis of current trends in e-commerce across the EU ? including per country, most purchased items and obstacles for consumers and business online. Between 2006 and 2008 the proportion of EU consumers buying at least one item over the internet increased from 27% to 33%. These average figures mask the huge popularity of online shopping in countries like UK, France and Germany where more than 50% of internet users have made online purchases in the last year. In the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland) the proportion of internet users who bought products and services online was 91% in 2008. Countries like Italy and Spain are also fast growing markets. Against this pattern of fast growing national markets, the extent of online purchasing cross border remains small, at only 7% in 2008 (compared to 6% in 2006). The report warns that numerous obstacles - linguistic, practical and regulatory as well as important trust issues ? are holding back the development of online shopping in the EU.
(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.
(Guardian) eBay has won a four-year legal battle with Tiffany over the jeweller's complaint that the online website amounted to a "rat's nest" auction of counterfeit watches, bracelets and necklaces. A judge in New York ruled that eBay could not be held responsible for policing the contents of its site, and that it was Tiffany's role to draw fake designer jewellery to the auctioneer's attention. The verdict is a relief to eBay which lost a similar case in Paris two weeks ago when a French court ordered it to pay ?38.6m in damages to the luxury goods manufacturer LVMH for allowing the sale of fake bags, perfumes and designer clothes.
(OUT-LAW News) >Online auction site eBay has been fined £31.5 million and ordered to forbid the sale of some luxury perfumes in a French court order designed to battle the sale of counterfeit luxury goods. Handbag, clothing and perfume company Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) sued eBay in the French courts, claiming that the company did not do enough to combat the sale of counterfeits of its goods. EBay claims that it cannot police all the sales through its site and that it makes no guarantee that goods are genuine, and that it suspends counterfeit auctions when notified of them. The French court, though, found "serious faults" in eBay's processes that led to auctions of counterfeit goods going ahead. By allowing the sales, it said, eBay had damaged the reputation of luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior.
(BBC) Children are able to illegally buy violent video games through online auction websites, the UK's Trading Standards Institute has said. Almost 90% of retailers tested by the association sold under-18s games, such as Manhunt 2, through such outlets. Traders supplying games to an under-age person in breach of official classifications can face a fine or up to six months in jail.
(BBC) Authorities in Bavaria, southern Germany, have taken a seven-month-old boy into care after his parents offered him for sale on eBay "as a joke". The unnamed child was advertised as a "nearly-new baby" with a starting price of one euro (£0.80, $1.6).
(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.
(Reuters) Dutch authorities intend to crack down on illegal online casinos and are calling on banks to stop providing financial services to them. The ministry has made a list of 30-50 Internet gamers and has asked banks to stop services to these companies. Swedish online gamer Unibet and Dutch firm Oranje Casino, are targets.
(ZDNet.fr) En France, l'État accorde un monopole sur les jeux d'argents en ligne à la Française des jeux et au PMU. Un projet de décret a pour objectif de contraindre les institutions financières à bloquer les ordres de paiement des opérateurs de jeux européens, dont les services sont accessibles en France. Bruxelles vient d'émettre un avis circonstancié sur ce projet de décret, estimant qu'il est susceptible d'engendrer des entraves à la liberté du commerce, des services ou d'établissement au sein de l'Union.
(RAPID) The European Commission has taken action to put an end to obstacles to the free movement of gambling services in Greece and the Netherlands. The Commission considers that the restrictions in question are not compatible with existing EU law and that the measures taken by these Member States to restrict the free movement of gambling services have not been shown to be necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory.
(RAPID) The European Commission has decided to send to Germany an official request for information on national legislation restricting the supply of gambling services.
This new inquiry focuses on a number of provisions of the new legislation which entered into force on 1.1.2008: the total prohibition of games of chance on the Internet, notably sports betting; advertising restrictions on TV, on the Internet or on jerseys or billboards; and the prohibition on financial institutions to process and execute payments relating to unauthorised games of chance.
(RAPID) The European Commission has decided to send an official request for information on national legislation restricting the supply and promotion of certain gambling services to Sweden. Poker games and tournaments are offered in Swedish international casinos and, since 2006, the state-owned company also offers such services online on a large scale. However, the national legislation prevents online poker games and tournaments offered by operators licensed and regulated in other Member States. Also, it provides for restrictions and criminal sanctions on the promotion both of online poker offered by a licensed service provider in another Member State, and of poker organised within licensed premises in another Member State.
(Reuters) The European Commission is set to step up legal action against Germany next week for thwarting foreign competition in the country's gaming markets.
A new German law came into force on January 1 that bans online gaming and betting, except on horse racing. Europe's online gaming industry condemned the ban on Web gambling as unlawful and urged the Commission, the European Union's executive arm, to overturn it.
(OUT-LAW News) A bill has been introduced in Parliament which would force online retailers to check customers' ages before selling goods that cannot be sold to children. The Online Purchasing of Goods and Services (Age Verification) Bill received its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday when it was introduced by Labour MP Margaret Moran as a private member's bill. Moran said in a speech to the House of Commons that e-commerce provided people under 18 with a loophole, enabling them to buy age-restricted goods such as alcohol, cigarettes and pornography.
(BBC) UK online sales rose by more than 50% in the three months to Christmas, according to an industry survey. Internet sales between 1 October and 31 December hit £15.2bn, up from £9.61bn a year earlier, with electronics and clothing doing well, Capgemini said. Firms with both a High Street and online presence, such as John Lewis, did best, the survey said. For every pound spent on goods in 2007, 15 pence was spent online, pushing annual electronic sales to £30.2bn.
(Reuters) Europe's online gaming industry filed a complaint with the European Commission, saying Germany's ban on online gambling breaks EU law on the free movement of services. "The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) calls on the European Commission to take swift action against the German Interstate Treaty on gaming," the lobby group said in a statement. The treaty came into force on Jan. 1 and bans online gaming and betting, except on horse racing, in Germany. The EGBA said the ban "is in direct contravention of European Union law".
(BBC) The UK's big five mobile phone firms have switched on a payment system that turns handsets into digital wallets. Called PayForIt, the scheme is designed for those buying goods and services with a value of up to £10. The industry hopes it will be used to pay for ringtones, train tickets, parking fees and eventually as a payment system on web shops and sites.
(FT) The Central Office of Information (COI) which co-ordinates advertising for the British government has ordered its internet campaigns to be kept off user-generated pages on social networking websites to avoid marketing next to contentious or offensive content. The policy is designed to spare the British government the fate suffered by several large companies who pulled advertising from Facebook, the popular networking site, after their corporate campaigns were discovered running next to a page with details for the far-right British National party.
(vnunet.com) The creators of the online world Second Life, Linden Lab, has banned all forms of gambling in the game. While Linden Lab itself does not offer any gambling facilities in Second Life, the ability for people in the game to create just about any type of object means that virtual casinos have sprung up all over the world. This new policy will effect all users of the game, regardless of where they live in real life.
(Economist) It has already changed most people's lives, but there is more work ahead for the mobile phone. The trusty SIM card can also act as a debit and credit card. That means it may only be a matter of time before mobile phones are used to deposit, transfer and withdraw cash.
(OECD) Mobile commerce is a promising market both for consumers and businesses. However, consumer troubles and complaints are increasing and can sometimes become serious, including issues for minors. Member countries? experiences show that we should ensure that consumers benefit. In particular, countries may review their instruments with regard to a more effective scheme for information disclosure, liability protection over SIM and RFID cards, effective notice to excessive consumption, and the importance of consumer education. Businesses may also consider more effective consumer protection schemes. see also Mobile Multiple Play: New Service Pricing and Policy Implications. This paper provides an overview of the evolution in mobile multiple play services (voice, data and video) and raises relevant regulatory and policy issues. The mobile infrastructure is being upgraded as 3G network coverage expands and as mobile broadcasting networks are being developed.