vzbv: Internet companies continue to cheat despite the ban
Large internet companies have had to adhere to stricter rules in the EU for 100 days. A study shows that there are still major deficits.
Size Internet companies from the USA and China are still failing to comply with the new legal obligations a hundred days after the European Digital Services Act (DSA) came into force. This emerges from a study by the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (vzbv), which was published in Berlin on Monday. Amazon, Booking.com, Google Shopping and YouTube still use illegal design tricks (“dark patterns”) to steer consumers in a certain direction.
Since August 2023, providers of very large online platforms have been prohibited from exploiting human behavior or perception patterns through design tricks – for example through the color design of buttons or long click paths. “People feel manipulated, confused or tricked by design tricks on online platforms,” said Ramona Pop, board member of vzbv. “It is truly astonishing how persistently companies ignore the applicable laws or only half-heartedly implement them.”
Consumer advocates also discovered serious deficiencies in the transparency of advertising criteria. Large online platforms are obliged to provide comprehensible and easily accessible information about the criteria according to which advertisements are displayed, explained the vzbv. This information should be able to be accessed directly by clicking on the advertisement. “None of the providers examined have so far complied with this obligation.” The association examined the Instagram advertisements from the Meta Group, Snapchat, TikTok and X/Twitter. After all, all but Snapchat marked the ad content as advertising and identified the respective advertiser by name.
Contact option “rather difficult to access”
Consumer advocates are also not satisfied with the way the major Internet players present the “small print”. According to the DSA, providers must, for example, present their contact information in an easy-to-find manner and make their general terms and conditions (GTC) transparent. A contact option can now be found in the Apple App Store as well as on Facebook and TikTok. However, from the point of view of consumer advocates, this is “rather difficult to access”.
The association complained that the general terms and conditions were sometimes difficult to find and did not always contain all the required information, for example on internal complaint systems. The general terms and conditions of the Booking.com and Google search websites as well as the TikTok and X/Twitter apps were examined – some of which were over 50 A4 pages long.