Request for Investigation into Google’s Unfair and Deceptive Practices in connection with its YouTube Kids App

Several US consumer groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this month to investigate whether Google’s YouTube Kids App, which was launched in February, violates Section 5 of the FTC Act prohibiting unfair and deceptive practices.

These groups believe that YouTube Kids contains too many ads that children can’t distinguish from entertainment. The FTC responded that they had received the complaint and “will review the concerns raised by these groups.”

This investigation is more complex that it may appear at first sight since advertising codes and regulations only exist for traditional media – i.e. Newspapers, TV and radio – but not for the Internet. Therefore, this case highlights the urgent need of having a Level Playing Field – i.e. an online world ruled by the same advertising codes and regulations of the ‘offline world’.

Telefónica believes that improved transparency is key for higher confidence of consumers in digital services. Fortunately, policy makers and governmental bodies, such as the FTC, also believe that consumers must be enabled to distinguish between information and advertisement. In fact, the FTC has previously charged Google and other tech giants with deceptive and unfair practices: last year, it reached a $19 million settlement with Google for unlawfully billing parents for unauthorized in app purchases made by children.