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Google must better comply with consumer rights

The European Commission and the European consumer authorities call on Google to comply with consumer rules to prevent deception. Under the supervision of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) and the Belgian Economic Inspection, different services that Google offers were examined, such as the Google search engine, Google Play Store, and the Google Store. Afterwards, a series of points of improvement was drawn up. Over the next few months, Google must follow up on those points of improvement. If they do not,further investigations will be conducted and fines may be imposed.

Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, adds: ‘For many consumers, Google is a starting point in their online search for products. Through the search engine, but also through services such as Google Play Store and Google Store. That means that Google must comply with consumer rules, just like other online retailers such as e-commerce platforms and comparison-shopping engines. Consumers must be able to trust that they are not being misled. The information they get must be clear and complete. The choices they make cannot be influenced by fake reviews or unclear paid ranking. Contact details must also be easy to find. In other words: consumers must be able to ‘Google’ with confidence.

What are the points of improvement?

Several of the points of improvement are:

  • Google Store and Google Play Store must clearly indicate who the seller of the product is and how the seller can be reached.
  • Google Store and Google Play Store must display essential product-related and service-related terms and conditions clearly and in a timely manner.
  • Google Search Engine must clearly indicate how the ranking was established and whether it was paid for.
  • Google Flights and Google Hotels must display the prices including taxes and other unavoidable costs.

ACM and the digital economy

The digital economy is an important Agenda topic for ACM. Businesses and consumers must be protected against deception online. That is why ACM has published, among other guidance, the ‘Guidelines on the Protection of the Online Consumer’. These Guidelines are based on the European consumer rules and explains at what point persuasion turns into deception. The guidelines form the basis for investigations and enforcement actions by ACM. These guidelines also promote fair competition conditions between businesses.

The national competition authorities of the member states of the EU and the European Commission work together closely within the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Network. As part of the collaboration, ACM and the Belgian Economic Inspection have taken the lead and they have examined the services that Google offers for compatibility with the European consumer rules.