Coronavirus: following Commission’s call, platforms remove millions of misleading ads

eshop_

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


As part of its commitment to protect consumers online, the European Commission has coordinated a screening (‘sweep’) of websites, with the aim of finding out where consumers in the EU are being subjected to content promoting false claims or scam products in the context of the coronavirus. The results show that, following the Commission’s call, platforms have removed or blocked millions of misleading advertisements or product listings. The sweep – carried out by the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Network – consisted of two parts: a high-level screening of online platforms, and an in-depth analysis of specific advertisements and websites linked to products in high demand because of the coronavirus.

Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, said: “The major online platforms have positively replied to the European Commission’s call to address scams and misleading offers and have shown a clear commitment to remove harmful content. However, as this recent sweep has shown, rogue traders continue to find new ways to exploit consumers’ vulnerabilities, circumvent algorithmic checks and set up new websites. In the midst of a global pandemic, you need to be aware of this as a consumer – there are no miracle online cures. I am grateful that national consumer authorities remain on high alert and are working together with the Commission to protect consumers online.”

Main findings

The Consumer Protection Authorities of 27 countries participated in the high-level screening of platforms and submitted 126 replies concerning both the companies with which the Commission has been in regular contact and additional national players. Particular attention was given to screening offers linked to protective masks and caps, sanitising gels, testing kits as well as food, food supplements and non-food products with alleged healing effects related to the coronavirus.

In 38 cases, CPC authorities found a number of dubious offers or adverts concerning products misleadingly promoted in the context of the coronavirus, broad claims that a product was able to prevent or cure infection, and excessive prices. In addition, this screening revealed that rogue traders are using new predatory practices that make it more difficult to find them, such as implicit claims of curing qualities of products with pictures or graphic illustrations, or even intentional misspellings to avoid automatic text based filters.

Overall, the screening has shown that the ongoing exchange between the Commission and the major online platforms is bearing fruit. For example, Google has blocked or removed over 80 million coronavirus-related ads (globally), eBay has blocked or removed more than 17 million listings from its global marketplace that violate EU consumer rules; and Amazon observed a 77% decrease in the weekly number of new product listings with coronavirus-related claims compared to March.

The in-depth sweep involved 268 websites, 206 of which were flagged for further investigation for potential breaches of EU consumer law.

  • 88 websites contained products with claims of alleged healing or preventive effects against the coronavirus;
  • 30 websites contained inaccurate claims on the scarcity of products;
  • 24 websites were suspected of unfair practices to obtain excessive prices.

The sweep also revealed that in 39 cases the selling price and the unit price were not displayed in an unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible manner. Moreover, CPC authorities also observed that consumers were not provided with clear and comprehensive information on all relevant aspects, such as the identity of the trader (on 58 websites), the geographical address of the trader’s establishment (on 62 websites) or the trader’s contact details (on 58 websites).

Next steps

The Commission has today updated its advice to consumers and has called on platforms to remain vigilant and continue with their efforts to give regular feedback to the Commission and consumer authorities. The Commission will coordinate cooperation between CPC authorities and domain registers, who can be requested to take down harmful websites.

In addition, the Commission will continue cooperation and information exchanges with advertising self-regulatory bodies on the development of automatic tools to find misleading advertisements.

Background

Since the beginning of March, the Commission has been working to protect consumers online from scams and rogue trading practices in the context of the coronavirus. As part of this work, the CPC Network – an EU network of authorities responsible for enforcing EU consumer laws to protect consumers’ interests – agreed to rapidly carry out a new sweep, specifically related to the coronavirus.

EU wide sweeps are carried out annually by the CPC Network on the basis of a common questionnaire prepared by the European Commission. Previous sweep can be found here.

More information

The Commission will continue to provide advice to consumers and traders, monitor rogue trading practices and publish relevant updates here, along with all information on its work to prevent consumer scams related to coronavirus.

More information on the sweep can be found here.

European Consumer Centres (ECCs) provide advice and assistance to the EU citizens on their queries, many of which related to the impact of coronavirus on a service or a good they purchased, you can find them here.

Factsheet on the Regulation on consumer protection.

More information on your rights as a consumer in the EU.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

This entrepreneur is helping farmers get food to consumers during lockdown

Switzerland has the most highly skilled workers in the world. This is why

These are the countries best prepared for health emergencies

The essence of care is cosmopolitan

Call to revitalize ‘language of the ancestors’ for survival of future generations: Indigenous chief

Mental Health: Role of the individual for their well-being in the pandemic

‘Fire-fighting approach’ to humanitarian aid ‘not sustainable’: Deputy UN chief

Black babies more likely to survive when cared for by Black doctors, suggests new study

EU Commission spends billions without achieving targets

“The Arctic climate matters: to what degree?”, a Sting Exclusive co-authored by UN Environment’s Jan Dusik and Slava Fetisov

EU-Vietnam free trade deal gets green light in trade committee

Here are five things to know about the future of being human

UN health agency spotlights stalled effort to close health divide across Europe, in new report

IMF v Germany: Eurogroup keeps the fight under control

European Junior Enterprise Network – Ready to take the Step Into the Future?

Here’s what I learned at Davos 2020

Yesterday’s “jokes” and sarcasm by Digital Single Market’s Vice President Ansip on EU member states’ right to protect their telco markets

We need to talk about integration after migration. Here are four ways we can improve it

UN human rights chief fears world has grown numb to Syrian carnage

Health is nothing but the main consequence of climate change

Financial abuse of elderly ‘rampant, but invisible’, says UN expert

Europe should make voice ‘more heard’ in today’s ‘dangerous world,’ says UN chief

Reducing disaster risk is a good investment, and ‘the right thing to do’, says Guterres

5 priorities for leaders in the new reality of COVID-19

How the United States can win back its manufacturing mojo

From low-earth orbit, ‘envoys’ of humanity join UN space forum

iSting: Change Europe with your Writing

Council Presidency: Floundering with the EU 2014 budget

This wall of shoes is for the women killed by domestic violence

Workplace risks: Final vote on protection from carcinogens, including diesel fumes

Copyright: MEPs update rules for the digital age

UN chief calls for ‘united front’ against anti-Semitism after US synagogue mass-shooting

Eurogroup asked to reduce public debts of its member states

Top UN political official updates Security Council on Iran nuclear deal

I created a class to teach zero waste. It turned into so much more

Superbugs: MEPs advocate further measures to curb use of antimicrobials

‘Amid stormy global seas, UN charter remains our moral anchor’, says Guterres on United Nations Day

ECB’s €1.14 trillion again unifies Eurozone; Germany approves sovereign debt risks to be pooled

Grexit no longer a threat but how to manage a “tutti frutti” government if not with fear?

‘Our goal is to democratize the air.’ How aerial transportation will shape cities of the future

Service and Sacrifice: For Ghana, UN peacekeeping is a ‘noble opportunity to serve humanity’

Israeli security forces’ response to Gaza protests ‘a recipe for more bloodshed’, says UN expert

Environmental Implementation Review: Commission helps Member States to better apply EU environment rules to protect citizens and enhance their quality of life

Yemen ceasefire deal: ‘Potential’ now to restore humanitarian lifeline to millions

AI can wreak havoc if left unchecked by humans

Celebrating Gaston Ramon – the vet who discovered vaccinology’s secret weapon

2 trillion drinks containers are made every year – so where do they go?

E-cigarettes are killing us softly with their vapor

Business is a crucial partner in solving the mental health challenge

The Ultimate Career Choice: General Practice Specialist

State aid: Commission approves German scheme for very high capacity broadband networks in Bavaria

These airports are now opening their doors to non-fliers

AI looks set to disrupt the established world order. Here’s how

Why do thousands of migrants need to be drowned for Brussels to wake up?

EU-US resume trade negotiations under the spell of NSA surveillance

There are 3 barriers blocking good menstrual hygiene for all women. Here’s how we overcome them

Denmark’s last circus elephants are retiring – here’s what might take their place

Tax havens cost governments $200 billion a year. It’s time to change the way global tax works

This AI can predict your personality just by looking at your eyes

Here’s how we reboot digital trade for the 21st century

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s