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WhatsApp

In June 2022, the CPC Network, under the lead of Swedish Consumer Agency and the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, supported by the European Commission, sent a second letter to WhatsApp reiterating their request that consumers must be clearly informed about WhatsApp’s business model and, in particular, whether WhatsApp derives revenues from commercial policies relating to users’ personal data.

The CPC Network first sent a letter to WhatsApp in January 2022 following an alert by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and eight of its member associations* on alleged unfair practices in the context of WhatsApp’s updates to their terms of service and privacy policy. The first letter invited the company to clarify the following: 

  • How WhatsApp ensures that consumers can understand the consequences of accepting the updated terms of service;
  • How WhatsApp uses consumers’ personal data for commercial purposes and whether consumers understand that WhatsApp shares this data with other Facebook/Meta companies or third parties;
  • How WhatsApp ensures that consumers can reject the new terms of service, especially as persistent in-app notifications prompt consumers to accept the respective changes;
  • Which measures WhatsApp intends to take concerning those consumers who have already accepted the updated terms of service on the false presumption that this was required to be able to continue using the application.

WhatsApp replied to this first letter from the CPC Network in March 2022. However, after having carefully assessed WhatsApp’s submission, the CPC Network was not convinced by the company’s clarifications on the concerns raised by the Network. WhatsApp was given until July 2022 to provide additional information.

* APC (Romania), Consumentenbond (the Netherlands), dTest (Czech Republic), Forbrukerrådet (Norway), KEPKA (Greece), EKPIZO (Greece), S.O.S. Poprad (Slovakia) and UFC-Que choisir (France).

Google

Following a dialogue started in 2021 with the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC), coordinated by the European Commission and led by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets and the Belgian Directorate-General for Economic Inspection, Google has agreed to address issues related to their practices and introduce changes in Google Store, Google Play Store, Google Hotels and Google Flights to ensure compliance with EU consumer rules.

Overview of commitments:
In order to ensure compliance with EU consumer rules, Google has agreed to:

  • Limit its power, provided in the Terms of Sales, to unilaterally cancel orders or change the price of an ordered good which was advertised at the wrong price
  • Create an email adress which only the Consumer Authorities can use, to communicate directly with the company, report and request the quick removal of illegal content from Google platform.

Google Flights and Google Hotels:

  • Present their business model clearly, thanks to a new tool kit included next to the booking options as well as a clearer “Learn more” section. The new disclosures helped consumers understand, when they make a booking, that they are contracting directly with the flight or hotel company and not with Google (as the possibility to book flights or hotels via Book on Google has been deprecated)
  • Help consumers identify clearly the prices used as a reference to calculate a discount, when discounts are promoted on the platform 
  • Clarify that they do not verify reviews on Google Hotels.
  • Accept the same transparency commitments as other big accommodation platforms (Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb) as regards the way it presents information to consumers (e.g on prices, discounts)

Google Play Store and Google Store:

  • Provide consumers with information on the company (legal name , the entity address, registration and VAT numbers) in Google Store, as well as direct and effective means of communication to contact the company (e.g. a live telephone agent, the address of the EU service provider, an e-mail address) in Google Play Store and a link to the ODR platform in both stores;
  • Provide clear information on their products and services which are key for consumers before the conclusion of the order (pre-contractual information) such as the existence or not, of delivery costs, the duration of the consumer’s right of withdrawal and the available legal guarantees for the repair or replacement of products which were not in conformity with the order)
  • Will enable consumers to use means of payment from any EU country when purchasing from different country versions of Google Store. 
  • Clarify how to browse different country versions of the Google Play Store and will inform developers about their obligations under the Geo-blocking Regulation to make their apps accessible EU-wide unless a specific exception of the Regulation can be relied upon.

As regards Google Ads and Search, the clarifications offered by Google remedied the concerns raised in the Common Position by the CPC Authorities.

However, one of Google’s practices still does not comply fully with the Geo-blocking Regulation. Google applies technical limitations for the use of the apps which would normally be available in the country where the user is temporarily located. Google justified that when users from a Member State visit another Member State they can change their Play country of residence once a year to have access to the local apps and games of the country in which they travel. However, apart from the arbitrary limits of this option (only once a year), in the event of such a change the outstanding balance will be linked only to the old Google Play country version. It is considered as an infringement to the Geo-blocking Regulation.

The CPC Network will actively monitor the implementation of these commitments, and national authorities will monitor and enforce compliance where concerns remain.

26 JANUARY 2023
Common position of national authorities of the CPC Network concerning the commercial practices and terms and conditions of Google
English
(5.7 MB - PDF)
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26 JANUARY 2023
Table of changes agreed by Google
English
(114.25 KB - PDF)
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TikTok

The European Commission and the CPC authorities launched a formal dialogue with TikTok to review its commercial practices and policies, following an alert by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) in February 2022 about the video-sharing app’s breaches of EU consumer rights. The action was facilitated by the Commission, while the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission of Ireland and Konsumentverket, the Consumer Protection Agency of Sweden, were co-leading it on behalf of the national consumer protection authorities of all the member States.  Areas of specific concern include hidden marketing, aggressive advertising techniques targeted at children, and certain contractual terms in TikTok’s policies that could be considered misleading and confusing for consumers. 

Following dialogues with the Commission and national consumer protection authorities, TikTok has committed to align its practices with the EU rules on advertising and consumer protection. The measures taken by TikTok will make it easier for consumers to spot advertisements on their platform and will be fully implemented by the end of Q3 2022. The CPC Network will actively monitor the implementation of these commitments, in 2022 and beyond, while Data Protection Authorities will remain competent to assess compliance of the new policies and practices of the company with EU data protection rules.

CPC authorities will, in particular, monitor and assess compliance where concerns remain, such as whether there is sufficient clarity around children’s understanding of the commercial aspects of TikTok’s practices, including in relation to personalised advertising, having regard for the “5 key principles of fair advertising to children”.

21 JUNE 2022
List of commitments by TikTok to improve their practices
English
(1.07 MB - PDF)
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Social media

As more and more consumers are targeted by fraud and scams through social media, a Joint CPC action  obtained that Facebook and Twitter bring their terms of service into conformity with European consumer law; and cooperate swiftly with CPC authorities when they report and request the removal of online illegal content.

9 APRIL 2019
Factsheets on changes implemented by Facebook
English
(146.42 KB - PDF)
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Press release 09/04/2019

Press release 15/02/2018