COVID-19: Protect Yourself Against Internet Scams

The EU is taking action against those taking advantage of the fear around the current crisis. 

With social distancing, internet shopping is on the up and some retailers are taking advantage of the situation. Fake treatments and false information about products are being shared – from masks and protective gear to hand sanitiser, some are being labeled as “the only protection against coronavirus”. Products in high demand are being sold at much more than their usual price and others claim that certain products are in short supply so that consumers buy more.

Keep your eye out for:

  • Explicit or implicit claims that a product can prevent or cure VOC-19.
  • The use of unofficial sources. In general, be wary of medical claims that are used to push particular products
  • When recommendations come from government authorities, official experts or international institutions, they should include a link or reference to official documents
  • Any advertisement that insists that the product is “available only today” or that it will be sold out quickly
  • General statements such as: “lowest price on the market”, “only product that can cure VID-19 infection”, etc.
  • High prices due to the supposed healing powers of the products

If you find misleading advertising on a website you can inform the platform operator. However, please note that sometimes the person sharing the information does not know that it is false. Always look for reliable sources of information about coronavirus: national governments, health authorities or international organisations such as the World Health Organisation.

What is the EU doing?

To address this rising problem, the European Commission and Member States’ consumer protection authorities have taken joint action. On 20 March 2020, consumer protection authorities issued guidelines on the most commonly reported scams and misleading practices to help internet platforms identify and eliminate them and prevent the re-emergence of similar ones.

On 23 March 2020, Justice and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Didier Reynders contacted various platforms, social networks and search engines to demand their cooperation.

Misleading consumers about the benefits or expected results of a product and ensuring that it can cure a disease is already banned in the EU, thanks to an e-commerce directive. Any advertising about the healing power of a product must be backed up by scientific evidence. Similarly, claiming an item is available for a limited time only is banned and internet platforms operating in the EU are obliged to intervene if they detect illegal activity on their websites.

The European Parliament is committed to protecting Europeans when they are online. Read more about their work on issues such roaming, net neutrality, innovation, e-commerce and geographical blocking.

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