Who: European Consumer Organisation (BEUC)
Where: European Union
When: 20 September 2023
Law stated as at: 18 October 2023
BEUC has published the outcome of a consumer survey on “the fairness of the online environment”. BEUC hopes that these findings will feed into the European Commission’s fitness check on EU consumer law.
The results of the survey, among other things, show that overall consumers do not feel they have a sufficient level of control over the content they see and decisions they make online, and a low percentage of consumers think that they are sufficiently protected by the authorities against unfair practices in the online environment. The survey addresses a wide number of issues related to the digital environment, including online tracking and surveillance for commercial purposes, the use of AI technologies, subscriptions and dark patterns, connected devices and child protection.
In particular, the report pays special attention to influencer marketing and consumers’ attitude towards these practices. According to BEUC’s findings, most surveyed consumers come across influencers when spending time on social media, and just over half of consumers say that they have purchased products and services after seeing that influencer recommend them. BEUC also states that most consumers believe that online platforms should take responsibility for the influencers that post content on their platforms if such content is harmful or promotes unsafe products.
Based on these findings, BEUC produced a number of recommendations to ensure better protection of consumers in a digital environment. In relation to influencer marketing, BEUC recommends to:
- Include a definition of “influencer marketing” in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
- Define liability among influencers, their agencies and brands in case of breaches of consumer law requirements.
- Introduce a ban of influencer marketing of certain types of products which pose particular risks to consumers (such as aesthetic surgery, nicotine-based products, promotion of all financial services, gambling, unhealthy food to children).
- Strengthen platforms’ role in tackling unfair influencer marketing practices, including by taking proactive steps by enforcing their terms and conditions and removing content that is hidden advertising or illegal.
Other recommendations include:
- Strengthening the enforcement of consumer and data protection law.
- Granting consumers a right to be free of all online tracking and to ban profiling that exerts psychological pressure or exploits individual vulnerabilities.
- Making the online environment fair by design and by default; banning deceptive design in digital services and regulating gambling elements in video games (such as loot boxes).
- Giving consumers more power over the amounts of data their smart devices collect, and a right to use the device without an internet connection where it is not required for its main functionality.
- Ensure a higher level of child protection in the digital environment.
Why this matters:
Influencer marketing is an emerging topic on the EU’s radar which attracts more attention. The European Commission has addressed this topic as part of its fitness check on EU consumer law and the outcomes of its public consultation which closed in February 2023, show that more than a half of respondents were concerned about a lack of disclosure regarding paid promotions by social media influencers and supported clarification of the concept of “influencer” and the further regulation of influencer marketing. BEUC also hopes that the findings as part of its consumer survey on “the fairness of the online environment” will feed into the Commission’s fitness check on EU consumer law.