COVID-19: EU-Commission on high alert to stop scams and unfair practices

unsplash-logoAni Kolleshi

On 23 March 2020, Commissioner For Justice and Consumers Didier Reynders wrote to a number of platforms, social media, search engines and market places to require their cooperation in taking down scams from their platforms, following the common position endorsed by the CPC network.

As the new virus spreads across the EU, rogue traders advertise and sell products, such as protective masks, caps and hand sanitizers to consumers which allegedly prevent or cure an infection. On 20 March 2020, the consumer protection (CPC) authorities of the Member States, with the support of the Commission, issued CPC Common Position COVID19 on the most reported scams and unfair practices in this context. The objective is to ask and help online platform operators to better identify such illegal practices, take them down and prevent similar ones to reappear.

It is in the general interest to guarantee a safe online environment where consumers, in particular in the context of distress caused by the current crisis, feel well protected against any illegal practices that potentially put their health at risk.

Advice to consumers and traders

Consumers should be cautious if traders in their marketing campaign or offer:

  • Use language or images in their marketing which explicitly or implicitly suggest that a product is able to prevent or cure COVID-19 infection.
  • Make reference to self-declared doctors, health professionals, experts or other unofficial sources stating that a product is able to prevent or cure an infection with the new virus.
  • Refer by name or logo to government authorities, official experts or international institutions which have allegedly endorsed the protective or curative claims without providing hyperlinks or references to official documents.
  • Use scarcity claims such as “only available today”, “sell out fast” or similar.
  • Inform about market conditions such as “lowest price on the market”, “only product that can cure COVID-19 infections” or similar.
  • Use prices that are well above the normal price for similar products due to the fact that they would allegedly prevent or cure COVID-19 infection.

Consumers are reminded that national governments in the EU provide official advice based on scientific evidence on how to prevent COVID-19 infection. Where consumers come across unsupported or misleading claims on online platforms, they should use the reporting tools provided by the platform operator for signalling inappropriate content.

Traders should act responsibly: refrain from and ban the above-mentioned practices, taking into account all national government instructions and advice in relation to the COVID-19 protection measures.

Source: European Union