After receiving many complaints against the social media platform TikTok, the European Consumer Association is now taking action. TikTok is said to be in breach of European law by exposing minors to inappropriate content and also playing surreptitious advertising.
Violation of EU law
In total, complaints against TikTok have been received by the umbrella organization of consumer protection organizations from 15 associations. The European Consumers’ Organisation BEUC (Bureau Européen des Unions des Consommateurs) then filed a complaint against the portal with the EU Commission. The video platform is accused of violating EU consumer law by endangering minors. The accusations against TikTok are by no means trivial. The video platform is accused of fulfilling numerous offences, including deception, misleading, violating European child protection laws and also copyright and data protection laws.
The aim of the Association for Consumer Protection is to initiate investigations by the relevant judicial authorities against the social media platform and to get the TikTok platform to comply with the applicable laws. On the other hand, the consumer association does not want to achieve a fundamental ban in Europe; the consumer protection organization is concerned with the content of the video platform. The associations from Germany, Norway, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Italy, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Sweden and also Spain are participating in the formal complaint to the EU Commission against TikTok. The German consumer association vzbz itself did not get involved, but issued a legal warning to TikTok.
Child protection at TikTok not sufficient
The director of the consumer umbrella organization BEUC Monique Goyens complains especially the child protection of the video platform. The protection of minors remains outside and “children become advertising space without their knowledge.” Further the Verbraucherschützerin said: ?We do not want that our youngest ones are exposed to insistent surreptitious advertisement and without their knowledge to advertising surfaces become, while they want to have nevertheless only fun ? Recently, it was revealed that fun is not always present on TikTok, especially for children. According to speculation, a ten-year-old girl died on a dare for TikTok. This involved a “Blackout Challenge” in which the girl wanted to participate by choking herself with a belt. Due to this incident in particular, data protection authorities are now more than ever behind demanding an age restriction for the social media platform.
Data protection authorities are already investigating
Not only are the associations and the umbrella organization for consumer protection on the video platform, but also some national data protection authorities. TikTok collects users’ personal data in a non-transparent manner, with notices on data processing also being misleading, the report said. The BEUC sees other critical points, for one, TikTok users are disadvantaged by the unfair terms and conditions (Terms of Service), in that users are completely and irrevocably deprived of the right to their published content.
On the other hand, the social media platform targets marketing offers at children and young people, exposing them to hidden advertising. In addition, minors are not protected from adult content. Last but not least, children and young people in particular are offered virtual coins for purchase, which they can use to send virtual gifts to well-known personalities. Of course, the virtual coins cost real money. The “Virtual Item Policy” contains misleading and unfair clauses for this, so that TikTok can adjust the exchange rate in its own favor at any time.
It remains to be seen how the complaint and the investigations against the social media platform will proceed, but there are enough violations of applicable law.