TikTok: consumer associations file a complaint

The TikTok application is in the sights of the European Bureau of Consumers’ Unions (BEUC): the federation, which denounces the deliberate vagueness of the General Conditions of Use of the application and the exploitation of minors, has just alerted the authorities national consumer rights organizations so that they can investigate.

Virtual gifts that TikTok alone determines the price

While the new US president, Joe Biden, has suspended the process of banning TikTok in the United States while it investigates, in Europe things are getting tough for the famous short video sharing app. The European Bureau of Consumers’ Unions (BEUC), a federation of 43 consumer associations from 31 European countries (which includes among its members the French associations Consumption, Housing and Living Environment (CLCV) and UFC Que Choisir), has just joined refer the matter to national consumer rights defense authorities (including the General Directorate for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF), in France).

BEUC criticizes TikTok for having deliberately made its Terms of Service vague and ambiguous so that they are always to the advantage of TikTok, to the detriment of the consumer. TikTok’s “Virtual Item Policy” in particular is singled out: this policy concerns the purchase by TikTok users of “coins”, which they can then convert into virtual gifts for their favorite videographers. Problem: this policy provides that for these conversion operations, TikTok decides the exchange rate as it wishes.

On TikTok, miners creating buzz for brands hoping to win a reward

Another problem raised by BEUC: on TikTok, brands invite users (minors in particular) to shoot videos on the theme of their products, which they must also stamp with several imposed hashtags. This exploitation of minors for advertising purposes is of great concern to BEUC, which wants the national authorities to investigate the legality or otherwise of such practices.

Likewise, minors on TikTok are likely to see content that is inappropriate for their age and even potentially dangerous. Finally, and this is a classic of the claims of consumer associations, TikTok does not clearly inform its users about the methods and purposes of collecting their personal data.