4 June 2020
By Bryan Smyth
As part of its commitment to protect consumers online, the European Commission has coordinated a 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.
Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune said: “I am delighted to see the Commission taking action like this against misleading advertisements on platforms. We are spending more time online at the moment and we have to be so careful about what we consume. Misleading ads or misinformation, especially in relation to the coronavirus could cause unnecessary panic and impulse purchases.”
“It is very encouraging to hear that 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, it is still the case that rogue traders will continue to find new ways to exploit consumers’ vulnerabilities which means that we have to be very careful when we are online.”
Overall, the screening has shown that the ongoing exchange between the Commission and the major online platforms is positive. 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.
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.