Consumer protection: Google commits to give consumers clearer and more accurate information to comply with EU rules
Have you ever struggled to understand whether you were buying directly from Google or from a different brand, or had difficulty finding information about final costs? In order to further align its practices with EU law – mainly on lack of transparency and clear information to consumers – Google has committed to introduce changes in several of its products and services. Following a dialogue started in 2021 with the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC), coordinated by the European Commission and led by the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets and the Belgian Directorate-General for Economic Inspection, Google has agreed to address issues raised by the authorities and to introduce changes in Google Store, Google Play Store, Google Hotels and Google Flights to ensure compliance with EU consumer rules.
Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders said: “Even today, almost three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, we see an increasing number of consumers turn to the internet to book their holidays, make purchases, or consult a review. EU consumers are entitled to clear, complete information so that they can make informed choices. The commitments made by Google are a step forward in this direction. We call on Google to comply fully with the Geo-blocking Regulation, ensuring that consumers can enjoy the same rights and access the same content, wherever they are in the EU.”
Overview of commitments:
Following the dialogue, Google has committed to limit its capacity to make unilateral changes related to orders when it comes to price or cancellations, and to create an email address whose use is reserved to consumer protection authorities, so that they can report and request the quick removal of illegal content.
Moreover, Google agreed to introduce a series of changes to its practices, such as:
Google Flights and Google Hotels:
- Make clear to consumers whether they contract directly with Google or whether it is simply acting as an intermediary;
- Clarify the price used as a reference when discounts are advertised on the platform, as well as the fact that reviews are not verified on Google Hotels;
- Accept the same transparency commitments as other big accommodation platforms as regards the way it presents information to consumers, for example, on prices or availability.
Google Play Store and Google Store:
- Provide clear pre-contractual information on delivery costs, right of withdrawal and availability of repair or replacement options. Furthermore, Google will facilitate also information on the company (e.g. legal name and address) and direct and effective contact points (e.g. a live telephone agent);
- Clarify how to browse different country versions of the Google Play Store and inform developers about their obligations under the Geo-blocking Regulation to make their apps accessible EU-wide, as well as enable consumers to use means of payment from any EU country.
The Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC) will actively monitor the implementation of these commitments, and national authorities will monitor and enforce compliance where concerns remain. Particularly, since there is one practice by Google that still does not comply fully with the Geo-blocking Regulation, as the company applies technical limitations for the use of the apps which would normally be available in the country where the user is temporarily located. Google justified that users can change their country of residence once a year to have access to the local apps and games of another Member State. However, that change may cause the loss of acquired content and outstanding credit, which is considered as an infringement to the Geo-blocking Regulation.
The Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) is a network of authorities responsible for the enforcement of EU consumer protection laws. To tackle cross-border issues, their actions are coordinated at EU level.
National authorities are responsible for the enforcement of EU consumer protection laws. Thanks to the updated Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation, they now have stronger powers to detect irregularities and take speedy action against rogue traders.
Moreover, the new Directive on better enforcement and modernisation of Union consumer protection rules, amended existing EU consumer law instruments by further enhancing transparency for consumers when they buy on online marketplaces.
Cooperation applies to consumer rules covering various areas such as unfair commercial practices, e-commerce, geo-blocking, package holidays, online selling, and passenger rights.