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Telecoms sites misleading customers, EU sweep shows

23 May 2018, 00:01 CET
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Telecoms sites misleading customers, EU sweep shows

Photo © aey - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - Sites offering telecoms services could be infringing EU consumer law, according to results of an EU-wide screening of 207 websites offering fixed/mobile phone, internet, audio and video streaming services.

The survey, published by the European Commission and national consumer protection authorities, reveals that 163 of the 207 websites could be infringing EU consumer law. Some of the most common issues identified are the advertisement of allegedly free or discounted packages that are in fact a bundled offer, the lack of a dispute resolution system, or the fact that these websites can unilaterally change the terms of the contract without information or justification to the consumer.

The EU's Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova, said: "Consumers use their mobile phone or internet subscriptions every day and should be able to trust these services. This screening confirms, however, that a number of websites selling such services are misleading consumers by advertising fake discounts or not providing the full information necessary to make an informed choice. I expect the false and misleading information to be corrected as soon as possible to ensure the sector fully respects EU consumer rules."

The main findings from the screening show that:

  • In 50% of cases, the website advertises a package of services for free or on discount, when they are only a service offered in a bundled package;
  • in 78,7 % of cases, the website did not provide a link to the Online Dispute Resolution platform;
  • in 40.6% of the websites, there was no description of a dispute resolution system;
  • 31.9% of the websites can unilaterally changing the terms of the contract or the service characteristics without informing the consumer and without allowing the consumer to cancel the contract;
  • 25,1% of the websites did not provide clear or truthful information about compensation and refund arrangements when the offered service is not what the client had paid for;
  • 21,7% did not provide clear and comprehensive information on the automatic contract renewal;

National authorities will now look further into the 163 websites with irregularities, which if confirmed will need to be fixed. Consumer protection authorities will ensure that websites fall back in line, using their national enforcement procedures at their disposal.

The Commission has conducted a number of EU-wide website screenings. Previous 'sweep' actions have focused on: airlines (2007), mobile content (2008), electronic goods (2009), online tickets (2010), consumer credit (2011), digital contents (2012), travel services (2013), guarantees on electronic goods (2014), consumer rights directive (2015) and comparison websites in the travel sector (2016).

Screening of websites on telecommunication and 
other digital services - background guide

Screening actions and coordinated consumer actions


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