European Commission: Websites break consumer protection laws

the results of an EU-wide website filter on deceptive online review practices revealed that the majority of the websites checked violate EU law.

Online consumer reviews on 223 major websites were checked as part of the recent ‘scan’, which was carried out by the European Commission and the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC), a network of enforcement authorities. enforcement of consumer protection laws in the EU, Iceland and Norway.

Verdict: almost two-thirds (144, or 64.5%) of the sites checked, including marketplaces, online shops, booking sites and search engines, “raised doubts about the reliability of reviews and authorities could not confirm that these merchants were doing enough to ensure that the reviews left on their pages were given by consumers who had actually used the product or service being reviewed.

According to the justice commissioner Didier Reynders, “Consumers very often rely on online reviews when shopping or booking online. I don’t want consumers to be fooled. I want them to be able to interact in a trustworthy environment.

Reynders added: “I emphasize one specific point: online businesses must provide consumers with clear and visible information about the trustworthiness of these reviews. Today’s results are a clear call to action. We will ensure that EU law is respected.”

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The review of websites also revealed that only 37% of the 223 targeted websites inform consumers about how reviews are collected and processed on the reviews page itself, while others mention it in small characters elsewhere on the page, for example in their legal terms. For 104 websites, this information was completely ignored and not made available to consumers.

The survey also showed that 118 websites lacked information on how fake reviews are avoided, making it difficult for consumers to check whether the reviews were written by consumers who actually used the product or service.

Regarding incentivized reviews, which sometimes resulted in a monetary reward, 176 websites did not mention that they were prohibited by their internal policies. In cases where they were authorized, traders did not ensure that they would be reported as incited.

Based on these findings, “consumer protection authorities have concluded that at least 55% of the websites checked are potentially in breach of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which requires truthful information to be presented to consumers to enable choice. enlightened,” the report said, adding that they had “doubts” for another 18%.

The sweep was the result of a 2020 Market surveillance investigation, which showed that consumers rely heavily on reviews for their online purchases, with up to 71% considering reviews an important factor when booking vacation accommodation. This revelation led authorities to decide to carry out the screening last year.

Armed with this new information, the national authorities plan to contact the companies concerned to make the necessary changes to their websites, and to take repressive action if they deem it necessary.

Legislation will also apply, from May 28, requiring merchants to inform consumers about how reviews are handled. The new law will also make it illegal to sell, buy or submit false consumer reviews to promote products online.

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