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

Commission Vice-President Rehn exaggerates Eurozone’s growth prospects

Industrial policy: recommendations to support Europe’s leadership in six strategic business areas

Number of MEPs to be reduced after EU elections in 2019

5 ways to break down the barriers for women to access leadership roles

A Sting Exclusive: “On the road to Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement”, by Ambassador Katakami of the Japanese Mission to the European Union

AI can help us unlock the world’s most complex operating system – the human body

5 amazing schools that will make you wish you were young again

Healthcare guidance apps to professional’s continued education?

The world needs a circular economy. Help us make it happen

Victims of terrorism remembered

Banks cannot die but can be fined

The next generation is key for a European renaissance

UN appeals for international support as flood waters rise in wake of second Mozambique cyclone

UN expert calls for international investigation into ‘evident murder’ of Jamal Khashoggi

‘The clock is ticking’ on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, says UN deputy chief

A Monday to watch the final act of a Greek tragedy; will there be catharsis or more fear?

Syrian Constitutional Committee a ‘sign of hope’: UN envoy tells Security Council

Coronavirus: Commission stands ready to continue supporting EU’s agri-food sector

Norway is returning Easter Island artefacts to Chile (Will Britain ever return the marbles to Greece?)

MWC 2016 Live: Mobile ad industry still waiting for “revolution”

Brexit casts a shadow over the LSE – Deutsche Börse merger: a tracer of how or if brexit is to be implemented

MWC 2016 Live: Roshan CEO opens up on Afghanistan challenges

EU Commission announces Safe Harbour 2.0 and a wider Data protection reform

Commission sets moderate greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030

From Russia with love: Brussels and Moscow close to an agreement on Ukraine’s gas supplies

Sudan Prime Minister survives attempted assassination

Monday’s Daily Brief: WFP mulls ‘last resort’ Yemen aid suspension, top peacekeeping awardee announced, abuzz over Bee Day, Ebola threat ‘very high’

EU-U.S. Privacy Shield: Second review shows improvements but a permanent Ombudsperson should be nominated by 28 February 2019

Why helping cross-border commuters is key to fighting COVID-19

Future EU-UK Partnership: European Commission takes first step to launch negotiations with the United Kingdom

Emotional control and introspectivity in times of pandemic

Why economic growth depends on closing the interview gap

The Khashoggi affair: A global complot staged behind closed doors

THE ROAD TO GANESHA

EU-Turkey relations: EU considers imposing sanctions while Turkey keeps violating Cyprus’ sovereignty

What if Trump wins the November election and Renzi loses the December referendum?

Nicaragua crisis: One year in, more than 60,000 have fled, seeking refuge

Trump after marginalizing G20 attacks Europe and China where it hurts, brandishes currency war

EU-Ukraine Summit: moving forward together in solidarity

MEPs to prioritise environment and climate action in next long-term budget

In Libya, Guterres ‘deeply concerned’ by risk of fresh military confrontation, urges restraint

UN forum to bring ‘big space data’ benefits to disaster response in Africa

The 5 lessons from New York Climate Week to help us combat deforestation

More than four in 10 women, live in fear of refusing partner’s sexual demands, new UN global study finds

Poverty and social exclusion skyrocket with austerity

3 ways to use digital identity systems in global supply chains

EU leads the torn away South Sudan to a new bloody civil war

Gender parity can boost economic growth. Here’s how

Technology can help solve the climate crisis – but it will need our help

An open letter from business to world leaders: “Be ambitious, and together we can address climate change”

Cyclone Idai: UNICEF warns of ‘race against time’ to protect children, prevent spread of disease in flood-ravaged Mozambique

EU-US trade war? EU calls for logic while Trump’s administration is a loose cannon in a dangerous lose-lose situation for global prosperity

This AI outperformed 20 corporate lawyers at legal work

We spend half our time at work in meetings – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing

Is history a new NATO weapons against Russia?

How three US cities are using data to end homelessness

2013, a Political Odyssey: What future for Italy?

The jobs forecast is unsettled. It’s time for a reskilling revolution

The European Parliament fails to really restrict the rating agencies

UPDATED: Thousands flee fighting around Libyan capital as Guterres condemns escalation, urges ‘immediate halt’ to all military operations

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