How does the law protect consumers who are minors?
Minors are becoming more and more important economic actors, in particular thanks to the development of new technologies. Business companies and advertisers have understood very well the profits to be made from these changes. A doctorate thesis (1) by Aurélie Nottet, an assistant at the University of Liège, analyses if the laws have been adapted in order to protect these most vulnerable consumers.
A ban on adverts which are too pushy
The European directive which outlaws unfair commercial practices can also be used to protect consumers who are minors. Implemented into Belgian law in 2007, it in particular bans advertising which directly exhorts minors to buy or to persuade their parents to buy goods or services. ‘Direct exhortation includes the most oppressive adverts, very ‘heavy’, which address the child familiarly, such as ‘call this number quickly’ or ‘impress all your mates.’ As far as persuading parents is concerned, it for example involves formulae such as ‘ask your Mother to go and buy such or such a new doll,’ adds the author of the thesis. In 2008 the Audiovisual Council reprimanded the television channel Club-RTL, following the broadcasting of an advert encouraging children to telephone St. Nicolas via an overcharged number (3). The editor, the TVI Corporation, was obliged to broadcast an official statement detailing the breach. Read the box about advertising for Saint-Nicolas.
(1) Le consommateur mineur. Analyse juridique de la protection d'une personne doublement vulnérable, doctoral thesis, University of Liège.