European consumer groups filed complaints against Tik Tok, a Chinese short-form video app, accusing it of breaching the European Union consumer rights and said the application fails to protect children from hidden advertising and inappropriate content.
The European Consumer Organization, or BEUC, says that the popular short-form video app's terms of service are unfair to users and its practices are misleading. Its complaint and alerts to European regulators come as TikTok faces increased scrutiny in Europe.
The BEUC filed the complaints with the European Commission, and consumer organizations in 15 countries have alerted their authorities and urged investigations into TikTok's conduct, according to the group, The Hill reported.
The complaint also targets the Chinese-owned app's processing of user data, a concern that US lawmakers have also raised.
"In just a few years, TikTok has become one of the most popular social media apps with millions of users across Europe. But TikTok is letting its users down by breaching their rights on a massive scale. We have discovered a whole series of consumer rights infringements and therefore filed a complaint against TikTok," Monique Goyens, director-general of BEUC, said in a statement.
The complaint alleged that aspects of TikTok's terms of service are "unclear, ambiguous and favour TikTok to the detriment of its users," and unfairly give TikTok the "irrevocable right to use, distribute and reproduce the videos published by users, without remuneration."
The complaint specifically called out TikTok's handling of content that is reaching some of its younger user base.
It alleged that TikTok "fails to protect children and teenagers from hidden advertising and potentially harmful content on its platform." For example, the complaint calls out the use of branded hashtag challenges where users are "encouraged to create the content of specific products."
"TikTok is also potentially failing to conduct due diligence when it comes to protecting children from inappropriate content such as videos showing suggestive content which are just a few scrolls away," the BEUC said.
Europe has stricter regulations in place surrounding data privacy compared to the U.S. Under the General Data Protection Regulation law, which was implemented in 2018, companies are required to state what data is collected and for what purpose.
Tik Tok has been facing scrutiny around the world for its alleged links with the Chinese government.
Last year, India banned Tik Tok and several other Chinese mobile apps keeping in view the threat to the nation's sovereignty and security.
The majority of the apps banned in the June 29 order were red-flagged by intelligence agencies over concerns that they were collecting user data and possibly also sending them "outside".
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