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TikTok in the EU’s crosshairs for ads targeting minors

Credit: Belga

On Friday, the European Commission opened a formal dialogue procedure with the social network TikTok, which was denounced by the European platform of consumer organisations for its aggressive marketing towards children and teenagers.

“In the European Union, it is forbidden to target children and minors with hidden advertisements, such as banners in videos,” Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in a statement.

“The dialogue we are launching today should help TikTok to comply with European rules” in this area, according to him.

The Chinese company now has one month to respond to the invitation from the Commission and the European network of national consumer protection authorities (CPC).

In February, the European consumer organisation BEUC flagged several infringements including hidden ads, aggressive advertising techniques aimed at children, and unclear contractual terms.

Test-Achats, in particular, had alerted the Economic Inspectorate in Belgium. The organisation denounced, for example, the “deceptive system” of “virtual gifts” aimed at rewarding the videos preferred by Internet users.

“TikTok claims for example the absolute right to change the exchange rate between coins and gifts, which could distort the financial transaction in its favour,” according to Test-Achats.

The organisation also points out that TikTok does not sufficiently protect children and teenagers from hidden advertising, does not clearly inform its users about what personal data it collects and for what purpose, and displays “unbalanced” terms and conditions.

“For example, the copyright conditions give TikTok an irrevocable right to use, distribute and reproduce videos posted by users, without any remuneration,” the association said.

The Brussels Times