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European Union: European Parliament Adopts Report on Effect of Online Advertising on Consumers

(Nov. 18, 2010) On November 8, 2010, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee of the European Parliament adopted a report on the impact of advertising on the behavior of consumers. Philippe Juvin, the French Member of the European People's Party of the European Union, who authored the report, asserts that current EU legislation on online advertising is not adequate to cover intrusive practices such as behavioral and targeted advertisments and must be revised. Behavioral advertisement occurs when advertisers appear as consumers on Internet forums, and targeted advertisement includes the use of “robots” used by Google's Gmail service to scan personal emails and make it possible to show advertisements tailored to each individual's profile. The EU's Unfair Commercial Practices Directive adopted in 2005 targets misleading and aggressive advertising; new forms of advertising through the use of new technologies over the Internet are, however, raising new issues. (MEPS Want EU to Tackle Abusive Online Advertising, EURACTIV (Nov. 10, 2010),

The report expresses concern over the routine use of behavioral advertising and the development of intrusive advertising practices, when third parties become privy to private emails or use social networks to produce advertisements that are specifically tailored to an individual's interests or perceived needs. The report also asserts that the use of cookies or profiling in advertising constitutes “an attack on the protection of privacy when it involves tracking individuals.” (Press Release, European Parliament, Advertising: Protecting Consumers from Abuse of New Technologies (Nov. 9, 2010),

The report urges the immediate insertion of specific language on behavioral advertisement in online advertising rules, together with an explanation of the meaning of such language. It also calls on the European Commission and the EU Member States to ensure that the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, whose scope does not extend to cover “hidden” Internet advertising, is broadened and to inform consumers in clear language as to how their data is collected and used. Hidden advertising occurs when consumers write comments to one another about goods and services. EU Member States should “encourage the emergence of forum observers/moderators who are alert to the dangers of hidden advertising.” (Id.)