Chapter 7: Consumer protection and marketing
Consumers are an important actor on the Internet. This importance is reflected in the fact that a great part of Internet activity involves consumers.1 Hosting a website, sending an email, watching content on the Internet, ordering goods online or just visiting a web page are all inherently consumer activities. But the increase of consumer activities also increases the risk and with it the need for protection. Internet consumer transactions need not differ significantly from regular ones except in their speed and relative ease. Hosting a web page is not significantly different from buying space in a magazine, sending an email can be equated to sending a letter, watching a television series streamed or downloaded from a web-based provider is the same as watching it on a satellite or cable channel and purchasing a video disc online is similar to ordering it on the phone from the supplier’s catalogue. And yet, uncertainties prevail, as consumers seem reluctant to commit to costly purchases on the Internet.2 Although some of the effects can be explained by a variety of psychological and economic factors, there is no doubt that the perceived or real lack of protection and lack of knowledge about the rights conferred and the applicable law play a major role. Whereas the Internet seems to have revolutionized consumer shopping habits, it would appear that consumer vulnerability has increased as demand for extra information, insurance and protection rises along with the number of fraudulent attacks. The European Union puts a high value on consumer protection,
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