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ACM calls on the market to help revise the Guidelines on the protection of the online consumer

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) wishes to revise its Guidelines on the protection of the online consumer. Such a revision is necessary because developments in the digital economy follow each other in rapid succession. That dynamic leads to new insights, new rules and regulations, and court rulings. The Guidelines offer guidance to businesses that wish to comply with the rules. ACM calls on market participants and other parties involved to share their opinions. In that context, ACM thinks of online businesses as well as marketers, designers, and legal experts that advise those businesses, but also consumer organizations and behavioral scientists. The revisions are needed in order to protect consumers better against online misleading practices.

Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, comments: “Online misleading practices that harm consumers is one of ACM’s key priorities. Developments follow each other in rapid succession, and we’re on top of them. That’s why we want to revise the Guidelines on the Protection of the Online Consumer right now. This is important for businesses that offer products and services online and don’t want to mislead consumers.”

Market participants and other interested parties that wish to help revise the Guidelines can submit their opinions by sending an email to UpdateLBOC [at] acm [punt] nl no later than May 2, 2022.

What are the Guidelines about?

In the online world, more and more techniques (as well as smarter techniques) are used to influence consumers. As soon as purchases are involved, ACM is involved. In such situations, questions such as the following become relevant:

  • Is the information clear and complete, or are techniques used to influence consumers covertly in order to have them to make a certain decision?
  • At what point does persuasion turn into deception, and what techniques are used in that context? Think about strategies such as the use of fake reviews or paid rankings. The way and form in which the information is presented, too, influences consumer behavior.

In 2020, ACM explained all of this in its Guidelines on the Protection of the Online Consumer. It is now time for a revision. Knowledge about online techniques and influencing has increased, and new laws have introduced additional rules.

The Guidelines concern the complete online buying process of consumers: from the pre-purchase phase (advertising, orientation), the purchase itself, and the post-purchase phase (cancellation, complaint). The rules of thumb for platforms will be included in the new version of the Guidelines. ACM wishes to publish the new version by the end of 2022.

Do you wish to help revise the Guidelines on the protection of the online consumer?

ACM invites market participants and other interested parties to submit their opinions with regard to the revision of the Guidelines. The Guidelines will be revised on the basis of the answers to the following questions:

  • In what way is ACM able to have the Guidelines fit in more with the day-to-day reality of people and businesses that are involved in the influencing of consumers and in the design of online choice architectures (for example, marketers, designers, and compliance officers).
  • Are there any subjects that are not or not sufficiently addressed in the current version of the Guidelines? If so, how can ACM include those in the revised Guidelines?

Please submit your answers to these questions no later than May 2, 2022, by sending an email to UpdateLBOC [at] acm [punt] nl.