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EU urges online platforms to gird for new wave of COVID consumer scams

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission on Friday urged online platforms to gird for a fresh wave of consumer scams linked to the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in Europe and said they need to work harder against the spread of disinformation related to the pandemic.

The European Union executive says that rogue traders have tried to sell products online that are falsely presented as cures for coronavirus or prevention of infection, and fraudsters have used offers to steal email addresses and passwords.

"We know from our earlier experience that fraudsters see this pandemic as an opportunity to trick European consumers," Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said in a statement.

"We need to be even more agile during the second wave currently hitting Europe," he added after a meeting with platform executives at which he encouraged them to join forces to strengthen their response to would-be fraudsters.

The online platforms liaising with the European Commission to fight consumer scams are Allegro, Amazon, Alibaba/AliExpress, CDiscount, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft/Bing, Rakuten, Verizon Media/Yahoo and Wish.

It said that since March these platforms have reported the removal of hundreds of millions of illegal offers and advertisements and confirmed a steady decline in new coronavirus-related listings.

Separately, the Commission said a new report showed Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and TikTok had taken "useful actions" to fight false and misleading coronavirus-related information but harmful content was still present online.

"Viral spreading of disinformation related to the pandemic puts our citizens' health and safety at risk," Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, said in a statement.

"We need even stronger collaboration with online platforms in the coming weeks to fight disinformation effectively

(Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)