TikTok Faces Consumer Law and Child Safety Complaints Across EU

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TikTok on Tuesday was targeted by EU consumer protection groups for allegedly violating the bloc’s consumer laws and for failing to protect children from hidden advertising and inappropriate content (via Reuters).

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The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) lodged a complaint against the short video-sharing app with the European Commission, citing several issues in its complaint, one of which relates to its terms of service.

“They are unclear, ambiguous and favor TikTok to the detriment of its users. Its copyright terms are equally unfair as they give TikTok an irrevocable right to use, distribute and reproduce the videos published by users, without remuneration,” it said.

Other complaints include TikTok’s virtual currency, which allows users to purchase coins to use as virtual gifts for TikTok celebrity performances, as well as the company’s allegedly misleading practices relating to processing personal user data.

In addition to BEUC’s complaint, consumer organisations in 15 countries alerted their consumer protection authorities and urged them to act.

Details of the alleged breaches are set out in two reports, one of which accuses the Chinese-owned app of failing to protect children and teenagers from hidden advertising and potentially harmful content shared on the platform.

As a press release by the BEUC put it:

“TikTok’s marketing offers to companies who want to advertise on the app contributes to the proliferation of hidden marketing. Users are for instance triggered to participate in branded hashtag challenges where they are encouraged to create content of specific products. As popular influencers are often the starting point of such challenges the commercial intent is usually masked for users. TikTok is also potentially failing to conduct due diligence when it comes to protecting children from inappropriate content such as videos showing suggestive content which are just a few scrolls away.”

Previous regulatory intervention in Europe occurred in Italy, where TikTok was forced to apply an age verification process in the country, after the death of a ten-year-old girl who participated in a “black out” challenge propagated on the the platform.

ByteDance-owned TikTok has also introduced an in-app summary of its privacy policy, which the company says makes it easier for teens to understand its stance on privacy.

“We’re always open to hearing how we can improve, and we have contacted BEUC as we would welcome a meeting to listen to their concerns,” a TikTok spokesman told Reuters.

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