The Roundtable event is organised with the New Consumer Agenda in mind, which was published towards the end of 2020. The New Consumer Agenda acknowledged the requirement to address specific consumer needs and, in particular, the needs of children and young people who are exposed to misleading and aggressive commercial practices online. It also stressed the importance of investing more in lifelong consumer education and awareness raising for people at all stages of life from school onwards.
There are several important market trends which are increasing the commercial pressure on European consumers, and which will potentially increase unfair practices including for minors. These include a strong increase in youth’s use of social networks and gaming platforms, a growing number of games and apps which allow in-game and in-app purchases, the development of a market for virtual items and the possible manipulations stemming from virtual reality environments, increased dominance of digital advertising, a massive shift of advertising budgets to digital influencer advertising, and the use of neuro-marketing techniques.
Against this background, the Roundtable will seek to consider the main risks online for children and young people as consumers, and how child and youth protection in digital markets in Europe is being addressed through existing and planned regulation. The event will discuss social media advertising which is directed at children, manipulative marketing techniques integrated into video games and the gamification of marketing, the lack of transparency related to the use of virtual currency on social media and in online games, and the exploitive use of children’s data.
Roundtable on child and youth consumer protection in digital markets
The Roundtable will take place in two parts: the first part (09:30-11:30 CEST) will be public and open to all who have registered. The second part (11:30-13:00 CEST) will run as a closed session for representatives of Safer Internet Centres and European Consumer Centres only.
The Roundtable will kick off with an introduction by Dr Hans Martens from European Schoolnet/Better Internet for Kids, June Lowery-Kingston, Head of Unit Accessibility, Multilingualism and Safer Internet at DG CONNECT, and Marie-Paule Benassi, Head of Unit Consumer Enforcement & Redress at DG JUST.
The following session will consider the question ‘what kind of consumer risks are children and young people exposed to and which regulatory responses are being put in place?’. The discussion will be led by Dr Eva Lievens, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law & Criminology at Ghent University, specialising in the legal impact of the design and deployment of technology in today’s society and human and children’s rights in the digital environment.
The next topic to be discussed is consumer protection regarding social media. Karl Hopwood from European Schoolnet/Better Internet for Kids will moderate a panel with Prof Simone van der Hof, Professor of Law & Digital Technologies at Leiden University, and David Martin from the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).
Lastly, the public part of the Roundtable will conclude with a session on gaming platforms. Dr Valerie Verdoodt will moderate the discussion and has already shared some views in advance of the session in an article on the BIK portal. Valerie’s research focuses on the legal and fundamental rights questions originating from the development of new media and technology, regarding the protection and participation of children online. She is particularly interested in studying children’s rights in the context of forms of commercial exploitation online.
The panel will consist of Celia Hodent, Game UX Consultant, Abulic, who is a game streamer on Twitch, and Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad from the Norwegian Consumer Council.
Registration for the Roundtable on child and youth consumer protection in digital markets has now closed. All registered participants will receive joining information in advance of the event.