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ACM: Stricter rules for online sellers

On 28 May 2022, additional rules come into effect for online sellers in order to protect consumers in the digital economy better. For example, an explicit ban on posting fake reviews will be introduced, and sellers that make online offers to consumers on the basis of those consumers’ profiles or previous purchases must be clear about such practices. Online platforms or marketplaces on which different businesses sell their products must inform consumers clearly for what issues the platform or marketplace bears responsibility, and for what issues consumers need to contact the seller that uses the platform or marketplace. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) will enforce compliance with these rules.

An overview of the most important changes:

Online reviews must be genuine

Businesses that use consumer reviews, such as online reviews, must:

  • Take measures for ensuring that the reviews reflect the genuine experiences of consumers that actually bought or used the product;
  • Inform consumers about these measures;
  • Inform consumers about how they deal with reviews. Think of, for example, where reviews come from, how businesses deal with negative and positive reviews, how the average review score is determined, and whether there were any rewards.

Posting fake reviews and fake recommendations of consumers (or having third parties post such reviews/recommendations), whether or not as reviews, likes, views or followers, is prohibited under all circumstances. 

Businesses must be clear about personalized offers

Businesses that offer consumers personalized offers online must inform consumers about that fact prior to the purchase. Offers can be personalized, for example, on the basis of personal data of consumers, such as their personal characteristics, search histories, or previous purchases.

Information obligations of online marketplaces or platforms

Online marketplaces and online platforms must inform consumers about whom they do business with prior to the purchase. In addition, consumers must know under what conditions the sellers offer their products or services. Furthermore, it must be clear to consumers prior to the purchase for what issues they can turn to the seller, and for what issues they can turn to the marketplace (think of the right to a good product or the right of withdrawal). This information must be presented in an easy-to-understand manner and in an accessible location. 

Consumer protection rules apply even if you pay with your data

If you purchase an online service or digital content, not with money but with your personal data, consumer protection rules will still apply. This means that consumers, for example, also are entitled to all of the relevant information prior to the purchase, and also to a cooling-off period.

Prohibition on automated ticket purchasing

Automated purchasing of large numbers of tickets for concert or live events simultaneously (for example using ‘bots’) in order to circumvent purchasing limits is prohibited.

Was/now prices

The rules for ads with discounts will change, too, but this change to the rules has not been completed yet. It is expected to come into effect later this year. Until then, the existing rules continue to apply.

More information

The abovementioned changes have already been implemented in the information for businesses regarding the rules when selling online.

Businesses can submit their questions and reports to ACM’s Business Desk.

Consumers can submit their questions (in Dutch) and reports (in Dutch) to ACM ConsuWijzer.