The Consumer Ombudsman has looked at the marketing of gatornorge.no , xplora.no, and gpsforbarn.no, which sell GPS watches for children. Among other things, the watches enable parents to monitor where their children are, and to phone them. The Ombudsman believes that the advertising for the watches breaks the law in a number of areas, and will convene meetings with the companies.
False sense of security
In the marketing of the watches, the sellers promise, among other things, that parents can be notified when their child leaves or enters a pre-defined ‘safe’ zone.
‘We question to what extent parents can actually be sure that the watches provide correct information about where a child is at all times. If, for example, the watches cannot specify ‘safe’ zones with 100% accuracy, the claims in the marketing can give parents a false sense of security that can potentially put children’s safety at risk,’ says Consumer Ombudsman Elisabeth Lier Haugseth.
The Ombudsman will pursue a number of issues:
- The companies have omitted material and necessary information, e.g. on monthly charges, the total price, freight costs and information about the lock-in period.
- Several of the advertising messages for the watches are not clearly identifiable as advertising, and thereby violate the prohibition on covert advertising.
- Consumers are not given mandatory information pursuant to the Cancellation Act.
Unclear terms and conditions that lock in consumers
- Gator and Xplora lock in consumers to one mobile phone subscription. This may be illegal.
- It is unclear to the consumers how consumer data collected via the watches is used.
It is becoming increasingly common for watches, dolls, fridges and other products to be connected to the internet. Through a project funded by the Ministry of Children and Equality, the Consumer Ombudsman is taking steps to ensure that consumers who use such products are properly informed about what this entails. Consumption Research Norway’s (SIFO) report about children and internet-connected technologies (link) shows that children are big consumers of connected products.
‘It is important that consumers have access to clear terms and conditions. At the same time, the terms and conditions must not be unfair, for example by locking in consumers to one mobile phone operator. We want to study the market more closely and help to ensure that the internet of things does not become a place where consumers are locked in,’ says Consumer Ombudsman Elisabeth Lier Haugseth.
Letter to Gator AS
‘In our opinion, there are so many problematic aspects of this marketing and the terms and conditions that it is most expedient to hold meetings with the companies at our office. We will go through the points we consider illegal, and hear what the companies say,’ says Consumer Ombudsman Elisabeth Lier Haugseth.
Earlier this month, the Consumer Council launched the report #Watchout where, in collaboration with Mnemonic, it tested a number of GPS watches for children. The report alleges serious security lapses, unreliable safety functions and inadequate consumer protection in a number of GPS watches. The findings from the report have led to a complaint being lodged with the Ombudsman, which will be an important factor in its further processing of the case.