Fake promotions, fake reviews: the slow European regulation of e-commerce

Promotions that are not, positive opinions on the Internet generated by bots … These violations in commerce, especially online commerce, have been closely regulated in France since Saturday 28 May. The European “Omnibus” directive, which the European Parliament voted on in 2019 and has since been converted into French law, went into effect at the end of the week. Its goal: “to modernize the right to consume in the face of online purchases,” according to attorney Jacqueline Brunlett, a commercial law specialist at CVS Avocat. The law is full of goodwill for consumer rights, but its effectiveness raises questions. Since there is real e-commerce law legislation in Europe, the search for fraudulent actions among the millions of online ads promises to be gigantic.

The first point in the law – perhaps the main hack: to control misleading promotions between sellers. Arnaud Touati, a lawyer who specializes in new technologies, explains: “What some traders do today is they start from a computer that was issued at a price of 1500 euros. And after three months, the price” of the computer went down to 1200 euros. But on Black Friday, dealers will sell it for 1,000 euros, claiming to reduce it by 33%, because it is based on 1,500 euros.” To avoid this kind of scam, the text states that professionals are obligated to take as a reference price for their promotion “the lowest price during the thirty-day period before the reduction A step forward for Jacqueline Brunlett, who confirms: “Until now, we have not had a text that accurately sets the price before the reduction.” Arnaud Touati also notes: “Professional online sellers, such as marketplaces, can also be penalized.”

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But Henri Isaac, a lecturer at the University of Paris-Dauphine and an expert at the Observatory for the Economy of Online Platforms, doubts the effectiveness of such a measure: “On paper, we can only be in favor. But the question is: is there really a reference price today, the price is dynamic. Change Amazon constantly prices its products. And as usual, the regulator is late.”

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