Europe: Minors and elderly people participating in online games need more protection, says European Commission

On 28 May 2013, the European Commission (EC) held a workshop on the Directive on unfair commercial practices (2005/29/EC also called “UCPD”) with representatives of all European Member States and various academics, lawyers and other stakeholders. The UCPD sets out a general legislative framework for commercial behaviour of traders towards consumers (B2C), prohibiting amongst others misleading and aggressive commercial practices and further provides a “black list” of commercial practices which are automatically considered to be unlawful.

The workshop was dedicated to the further elaboration on the EC’s recent “Communication on the application of Directive 2005/29” in which the EC sets out several points of attention regarding the application of the UCPD in the different Member States since the adoption and implementation thereof. In overall, the EC is of the opinion that the provisions of the UCPD should not be amended at this point but it wishes to raise awareness on some key areas on which further scrutiny should be performed.

As such, and specifically relating to the on-line gaming environment, the EC’s Communication states that “A few Member States signal aggressive practices targeting children, in the field of on-line games, as well as the elderly. Further efforts need to be made to strengthen the enforcement of the Directive in relation to these categories of vulnerable consumers who find themselves in a situation of weakness. In particular, it must be ensured that, taking into account also the progressive ageing of the population, vulnerable consumers are protected from the risks deriving from the effects of the economic crisis and the complexity of the digital markets.”.

During the workshop, emphasis was laid on the protection of vulnerable consumers, particularly in the developing online markets, but the on-line gaming aspect was not further elaborated on. During the coming months however, the Commission will hold further workshops in order to develop further action points on the different key areas involved, including the on-line (and gaming) aspect. It will be worthwhile following up what will come out of these workshops.

Should you have any further questions regarding to the above, please contact Patrick Van Eecke (Patrick.vaneecke@dlapiper.com) or Antoon Dierick (Antoon.dierick@dlapiper.com).