The TikTok social network targeted by European consumer protection associations

A group of associations accuses TikTok of not being in order with European law, especially on the protection of minors.

TikTok is in the sights of the European Bureau of Consumers Unions (BEUC). This consortium of national consumer protection associations has filed a complaint with the European Commission against the Chinese video social network for multiple infringements of user rights. Fifteen BEUC member associations also appealed to their national authorities. In France, the UFC-Que Choisir alerted the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF).

«BEUC and its members want the authorities to launch investigations into TikTok’s practices, in order to ensure that the application respects the rights of European consumers“, Indicates the consortium in a press release. The latter is accompanied of a forty-page study highlighting questionable uses.

Among these: TikTok has only translated its terms of use, privacy policy or rules around its virtual currency into a handful of European languages ​​like French, German or Spanish. However, the application is also widely used in Norway, Hungary and Croatia without users being able to read these texts in their native language, which is an infringement of consumer rights.

Insufficient protection of minors

Another problem: these terms of use are written in legal language “ambiguous and unclear“. Given the large number of minors using TikTok, “they should be able to understand the legal and economic consequences of their decisions on this platform.BEUC calls for a rewriting of these texts in a language accessible to the youngest and in the language of their country. “European laws impose high standards of protection for vulnerable consumers“, Like children and adolescents, he recalls.

«It can be said that a very large proportion of TikTok users are children under the age of 18.», Continues BEUC. The application is in theory prohibited for those under 13, and the social network prevents 13-17 year olds from accessing a large number of features, such as the use of private messaging. But nothing prevents the user from entering a fictitious date of birth to create an account, and thus pass himself off as an adult.

BEUC believes that TikTok does not sufficiently protect this fragile audience. It allows advertising targeting of 13-17 year olds. And disguised ads are flourishing in the app, in the form of product placement, without it being written clearly and visibly that a paid partnership has been formed between a brand and an influencer. “Kids love TikTok, but this business fails to protect them. We don’t want the youngest to be exposed to disguised advertising and turn into billboards without their knowledge, when they are just trying to have fun», Declares Monique Goyens, director of BEUC, referring to the challenges that brands love.

An opaque virtual currency

The consortium also regrets that the social network exposes minors to inappropriate content. He created a fake account pretending to be a thirteen-year-old child, and immediately found himself drowned in sexually suggestive videos.

BEUC also denounces the system of gifts to influencers. TikTok users can purchase virtual currency (the “rooms»), Which is used to send stickers to their favorite content creators. These virtual gifts can be exchanged for 20, 200, or 2000 coins, without the euro value of these stickers being displayed. However, some cost more than 100 euros …

«The system is designed in such a way that the user forgets that he is spending money», Notes the Beuc, who regrets that safeguards are not put in place to prevent children from unwittingly emptying their parents’ bank account. Purchasing parts is restricted to users over the age of 18, but nothing prevents a teenager from creating a fictitious date of birth.

The gifts received by influencers are converted into “diamondsWhich can themselves be converted into dollars. But at what rate? And what commission does TikTok give itself? The answer does not appear anywhere in the conditions of use of the social network, deplores the BEUC.

SEE ALSO – TikTok, a new political weapon?

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