In December the European Parliament issued a resolution on the impact of advertising on consumer behaviour. The resolution (which does not have any immediate legal impact on its own) highlights issues of concern, particularly in relation to "hidden" techniques like OBA and blogging, and calls on the European Commission to take action – either in the form of research or imposing stricter rules. Key issues and recommendations, many of which relate to privacy and data protection, include:a crackdown on potentially misleading consumer-to-consumer advertising encouraged by businesses in the form of comments on social networks, forums and blogs which fall outside the scope of the UPCD;
highlighting concerns about the routine use of OBA and growth of intrusive advertising practices including reading email content, use of social networks, geolocation and retargeted advertising;
analysis of the impact of misleading and aggressive advertising on children and other vulnerable consumers and a call for "all children's specific interests to be free from targeted advertising"; and
introducing a requirement for insertion of the clearly readable words "behavioural advertisement" as well as "a window containing a basic explanation of this practice".
It remains to be seen to what extent the EP's recommendations will eventually make it into law; in relation to OBA, cookies and other privacy issues, tighter information rules are in any event due to come into force later this year – for the background, see the article in our Autumn 2010 edition of Talking Shop "Behavioural targeting in Government crosshairs".
The six page resolution is available on the EP's website here.