Fake promotions, fake reviews: Slow European regulation of e-commerce

Promotions that are not, positive opinions on the Internet created by robots… These abuses of commerce, and particularly of online commerce, have been more strictly regulated in France since Saturday, May 28th. The European “Omnibus” directive, voted in 2019 by the European Parliament and since transposed into French law, came into force at the end of the week. Its objective: “to modernize the right to consumption in the face of online purchases”, according to lawyer Jacqueline Brunelet, a specialist in commercial law at CVS Avocat. The law is full of good intentions for consumer rights, but its effectiveness raises doubts. Because there is a veritable legislative mille-leaf of e-commerce law in Europe, and the search for fraudulent procedures within the millions of online advertisements promises to be titanic.

First point of the law – perhaps the main advance: the control of deceptive promotions among sellers. Arnaud Touati, a lawyer specializing in new technologies, explains: “Today, what some merchants do is start from a computer that came out at a price of 1,500 euros. Three months later, the price of the “computer dropped to 1,200 But on Black Friday, merchants will sell it for 1,000 euros, claiming that it is a 33% reduction, because they are based on 1,500 euros”. “the lowest price in the thirty-day period preceding the reduction.” A step forward for Jacqueline Brunelet, who underlines: “Until now, we did not have a text that precisely defines what the price before the reduction is.” Arnaud Touati also highlights: “Online, now, professional sellers can also be sanctioned, as well as marketplaces”.

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But Henri Isaac, a professor at the Paris-Dauphine University and an expert at the Observatory on the economy of online platforms, doubts the effectiveness of such a measure: “On paper, we can only be favorable. Reference price? Today, the price is dynamic. Amazon varies constantly prices their products. As is often the case, the regulator has a delay.”

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