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Digital contents

The Digital Contents Sweep took place in 26 EU Member States, Norway and Iceland in June 2012. Consumer authorities in these countries checked 330 websites offering digital content products which can be downloaded to a computer or mobile device (games, books, videos, music).

Following the wide screening of the websites checked for breach of EU consumer rules, it turned out that only 50% of them were providing satisfactory information to consumers. After the sweep and enforcement actions taken by national authorities over the following months, more than 80% of these websites were compliant.

The main problems found included:

  • unfair contract terms;

  • unclear information on the right of withdrawal;

  • lack of mandatory information on the trader's identity.

This is all the more worrying when vulnerable consumers, i.e. children, are targeted. Users have to click their way through a maze of contract terms, to find out how much they will eventually have to pay and children are frequently lured into purchasing items related to supposedly free games. In case of a problem, reaching the after-sales service is often difficult as contact information is missing in more than one third of the websites.

After the screening, national enforcement authorities contacted the companies concerned to enable them to clarify their position and or correct their website.

Tips for consumers - what to check before and after buying digital content products online

  1. Make sure that the trader provides his name, geographical and e-mail address.

  2. Check that you are given sufficient information and minimum operating system requirements of the product such as size, quality and whether a device or particular software is needed in order to operate the digital content product.

  3. Look out for the final price; including taxes and all charges that may be hidden in the last stages of the payment process.

  4. Be aware that once you have started downloading the product, you have usually no right to return it.

  5. Beware of terms that exclude the trader from various liability and redress mechanisms; they are probably unfair.

  6. You have a right to take legal action and seek any legal remedy. Any restriction of that right is considered unfair.

  7. Look for information whether you can use or not the digital content in another country than the one you reside in. Contact the sales office for advice, if you do not find the information.

  8. Be careful when you or your child see games advertised as free; there might be add-ons requiring payment without you being warned about it beforehand.

  9. In case of a problem with a trader in another Member State you can report it to your local European Consumer Centre.

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