The European Commission on Friday launched an action against the social network TikTok, accused of using disguised advertising targeting children, to comply with EU consumer protection rules, according to a statement.
The Commission, together with the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC) bringing together the competent authorities of the Member States, “has initiated a formal dialogue with TikTok for a review of its trade policy and practices”, according to the press release. The European executive is giving this video-sharing application, owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance and very popular with children and adolescents around the world, one month to respond. Commitments are expected from the platform, failing which the procedure may ultimately lead the national authorities to decide on fines against it.
“In the European Union, it is prohibited to target children and minors with disguised advertisements such as banners in videos. The dialogue we are launching today should help TikTok to comply with European consumer protection rules, ”said European Commissioner Didier Reynders. This move follows a complaint lodged in February with the Commission by the European Bureau of Consumers’ Unions (BEUC), which brings together consumer defense associations from 32 countries in Europe.
TikTok is also notably criticized for “certain contractual terms (…) which may be considered as misleading and confusing”. The French organization UFC-Que Choisir had in February denounced “the deceptive system” of “virtual gifts” aimed at rewarding the favorite videos of Internet users, believing that TikTok was doing “everything possible so that the user forgets that he is is real money ”.
TikTok has indicated that it is ready for a dialogue. “We have taken a number of measures to protect our youngest users, such as making all accounts under 16 private by default, and disabling their access to direct messages,” said Caroline Greer of TikTok Europe in a commentary. declaration sent to AFP. “In addition, those under the age of 18 cannot buy, send or receive virtual gifts and we have strict measures prohibiting advertisements aimed at those under the age of digital consent” (which is 15 years in France for example, and varies from state to state), she added.