Euro regulator makes recommendations on online advertising to kids


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On 2 May, the EU Commission released its New strategy for safer internet and better internet content for children and teenagers which aims to harmonise protections across member states for children using online services.

The measures outlined in the strategy build on ongoing EU actions in this field. An industry coalition* was set up by the European Commission on 1 December 2011 to make a better and safer internet for children.

Online advertising & online purchases
Importantly, the Commission wants standards for advertising on websites for children allowing a level of protection comparable to that of advertising in audiovisual services.

“Advertising is (%u2026) thriving online, and children do not have a developed ability to engage critically with it”, the Commission notes.

It calls on the industry to:
  • provide transparent, clear and age-appropriate information about the costs of services that can be acquired online and avoid default settings that would easily allow children to access premium services for which additional payment is necessary.
  • avoid addressing children directly and encouraging them to buy virtual goods or credits with their mobile phone or other means that do not require prior parental control. Contextual early warnings about additional costs should be envisaged to empower children and parents.
  • build on self-regulatory standards such as those defined by the European Advertising Standards Alliance for behavioural advertising and proactively implement measures to avoid the exposure of children to inappropriate advertising in any form of online media.

The Commission will step up the enforcement of existing EU rules and stimulate further self-regulatory measures in order to better protect children from inappropriate advertising and overspending. It will also expand on the wider issue of children as consumers in the forthcoming Consumer Agenda.

The Commission warns that it will look into further legislation if self-regulatory measures fail to deliver.

Default age-appropriate privacy settings
In order to protect children's personal data, the Commission calls on the industry to implement transparent default age-appropriate privacy settings.

The Commission will propose in 2012 a pan-European framework for electronic authentication that will enable the use of personal attributes (age in particular) to ensure compliance with the age provisions of the proposed data protection regulation.

Member States should encourage the adoption of self-regulatory measures by industry and follow their implementation at national level.

Parental controls
The industry should also ensure the availability of user friendly parental controls for all on all internet-enabled devices available in Europe. The tools should be efficient for any type of content, including user-generated content.

To this aim, the Commission will support benchmarking and testing parental control tools and relevant support services. Legislative measures will also be considered in this field if industry self-regulation fails to deliver.

*The 28 founding Coalition members are: Apple, BSkyB, BT, Dailymotion, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, France Telecom-Orange, Google, Hyves, KPN, Liberty Global, LG Electronics, Mediaset, Microsoft, Netlog, Nintendo, Nokia, Opera Software, Research in Motion, RTL Group, Samsung, Sulake, Telefonica, TeliaSonera, Telenor Group, Tuenti, Vivendi, Vodafone.

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