The European Consumer Organization BEUC filed a complaint with the European Commission against the social media and video sharing platform TikTok today. In its latest report 'TikTok without filters' BEUC showed that the platform's terms of service, hidden advertisements and handling of personal data violate against the EU General Data Protection Regulation and consumer rights, especially of young people, among whom TikTok is very popular.
With this set of action, BEUC seeks to raise awareness and transparency about TikTok’s business model and its potential drawbacks for consumers.
These are further insights:
- Some specifications of the terms of service are unclear, ambiguous and at the disadvantage of platform users. For instance, the copyright terms give TikTok an irrevocable right to use, distribute and reproduce the videos published by users, without any remuneration.
- The TikTok feature 'Virtual Items' enables users to purchase coins which they can use as virtual gifts for their TikTok idols. The underlying ‘Virtual Item Policy’, however, contains unfair terms and misleading practices such as TikTok's absolute right to modify the exchange rate between coins and gifts, potentially skewing the financial transaction in its own advantage.
- Children and teenagers are not sufficiently protected from hidden advertising and marketing as well as potentially harmful content.
- The commercial purpose behind branded hashtag challenges, which are initiated by popular influencers and encourage other users to participate by creating their own content of specific products, often remain hidden and unclear to consumers.
- As for videos showing suggestive or inappropriate content, TikTok is potentially failing to conduct due diligence in order to protect young consumers from respective videos that are just a few scrolls away.
- The practices for handling personal data are misleading, as TikTok does not inform its users about what data is collected, for what purpose and for what legal reason – especially not in a manner comprehensible to children and teenagers.
Monique Goyens, Director General of The European Consumer Organization BEUC, said: "In just a few years, TikTok has become one of the most popular social media apps with millions of users across Europe. But TikTok is letting its users down by breaching their rights on a massive scale. We have discovered a whole series of consumer rights infringements and therefore filed a complaint against TikTok."