The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has found that major Dutch electronics retailers bol.com, Coolblue, and Mediamarkt give, prior to the purchase, consumers that wish to buy smart devices online better information about software updates, for example for how long consumers are guaranteed to receive updates, what the frequency of the updates will be, and what kind of updates the consumer can expect. In this way, consumers are able to take this information into account in their purchasing decisions. This is important, because smart devices without updates become unsafe, and may even become unusable. ACM has raised this issue with major online retailers of smart devices. ACM welcomes the steps that bol.com, Coolblue, and Mediamarkt have taken.
Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, says: “It is important that, before purchasing smart devices, consumers know what to expect with regard to updates. Consumers should receive this information from suppliers before making their purchases. This is what we would like to see, also from other online suppliers. We are glad to see that more and more suppliers understand the importance of this.”
Information when purchasing a smart device
Prior to the actual purchase, consumers should be informed about important features of the device. When purchasing smart devices, consumers should specifically be informed about what the product does, whether it can ‘connect’ to other devices, what to expect with regard to software updates, whether other services are needed in order to be able to use the device, and how the consumer’s personal data is handled. Manufacturers that supply such devices should make this information available to suppliers, who, in turn, should inform consumers.
In late-2019, ACM announced that it would check to what extent online suppliers provided this information. This check showed that major suppliers of consumer electronics provide consumers insufficient information about these aspects. ACM subsequently reminded them of their duty to inform. Three major suppliers (bol.com, Coolblue, and Mediamarkt) have already expanded and improved the product pages of a large number of smart devices. Coolblue already provided information for more traditional smart products such as tablets and smartphones, and has now added such information for more products. ACM welcomes this move, and sees it as a step in the right direction that other market participants should also take. In connection therewith, an investigation into another company is still underway.
What are smart devices?
More and more devices that are used by consumers are connected to the Internet. This means that these devices offer features that other devices cannot. Such devices are called ‘smart’ devices. Think of digital assistants or smart thermostats. In order to be able to use such features, all of these devices use software and an internet connection. These devices are connected to each other via the Internet of Things (IoT).
Rights of consumers
Before making a purchase, consumers are entitled to all of the information regarding the features and the quality of a device that is needed to make a well-informed decision. Suppliers of smart devices that do not inform consumers about software updates and other important features violate consumer rules. ACM can reprimand them about issues like these, and impose fines. The digital economy is a key priority on ACM’s Agenda. That is why ACM would like to receive reports from consumers about their experiences with purchases of ‘smart’ devices.
In order to keep smart devices safe, it is important that consumers download software updates. For more information, consumers are advised to go to this website (in Dutch)