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Susanne Kleimst is an analyst and specialist journalist for the German-speaking area. She studied in Giessen and Berlin and now works as a freelance journalist in her adopted home, Stuttgart. Her main focus is on the areas of finance and insurance.

Online offers and consumer protection: How do you recognize serious providers?

Digital offers are becoming increasingly popular, but consumer and data protection are also becoming increasingly important. How can customers recognize legitimate offers?

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Rip Off on the Internet: Like Cowboys in the Wild West?

For a long time, there was a downright wild west mentality on the Internet, in which the law of the stronger applied. For example, customers who wanted to bargain online were (and still are) often powerless against rip-offs or trickery when the fraudsters were sitting abroad because domestic law enforcement could not help them.

There are also plenty of trick scams waiting for online users: Phishing attacks are always aimed at panicking the user and causing them to act (often to click, download, enter user information, etc.). In the past, for example, fake reminders were often used for online accounts or fake invoices, or users were blackmailed with alleged photos.

Consumer protection and eCommerce

However, the most dangerous are still the insidious scams that lurk for customers who do not look twice when shopping online. However, in the course of various data protection scandals, the topic of consumer protection is also increasingly coming into focus.

For example, consumer advocates warn of fake retailers who offer products at well-known online shops such as Amazon or eBay at dream prices, but which never arrive. This is especially true on the big special discount days, on which many retailers advertise with bargains. The consumer advises therefore not to be blinded by discounts and preferably to pay by invoice or direct debit and not to be lured into a dangerous prepayment purchase.

Safe on the move in dubious industries

There are also industries that tend to cause even more skepticism among consumer and data protection experts: These include financial service providers as well as digital gaming sites. So she has Stiftung Warentest Broker apps tested with which customers can carry out insurance comparisons on their smartphones, receive advice and optimize their existing insurance policies. She found that many consumers are not even aware that they are browsing digital brokerage sites.

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It is usually even more difficult for consumers to recognize the seriousness of gaming portals such as poker sites and online casinos. Although there are some signs that can be used as a guide, many dubious providers always find a way to outwit both laypersons and experienced casino goers. You can identify a trustworthy casino at the following points:

  • Existence of a license
  • Membership in a regulatory authority
  • Disclosed privacy policy
  • Specify the general terms and conditions
  • Provide contact details and a name of the provider

If, despite this short checklist, you are not sure whether the casino of your choice is legitimate or not, you can stick to rating platforms. Become regular good online casinos checked by casino games and recognized as safe or marked as not trustworthy.

Special protection for minors

Minors in particular need special protection against the dangers of online rip-off: almost all experts in European countries have the common consensus that Minors, for example, have no business in casinos. This applies to real casinos as well as to online offers, only the control is of course more difficult there. Studies show that the risk of falling into gambling addiction is too great. When you are mature enough to gamble, however, each state decides for itself.

In Austria as in Germany, just like in Germany, the eighteenth birthday is the age limit. But this is not the case in all states. If you travel to a different country and perhaps have the ulterior motive to go to the casino, you should first find out about the age at which gambling is allowed there. Because the minimum age limit of the country in which the casino is located always applies. This is in the world's most famous casino, in Las Vegas, for example, only at 21. Some countries, such as Malta, go a step further and only allow gambling from a minimum age of 25 years.

Online contracts for minors

The situation is similar with the conclusion of contracts by minors: When minors shop online, contracts are only valid if these activities are expressly tolerated by their parents. If not, such deals are "pending ineffective". If, on the other hand, a child is younger than 7 years, the parents can demand the money back because the contract with a legally incapable child is not effective.

However, affected parents shouldn't just do nothing. Contracts are ineffective, but the providers do not necessarily have to know that, for example if the minor concluded the contract under a false name and at a fictitious age. Therefore, parents should inform the contracting parties in writing that they did not allow the conclusion and the contract is therefore void. If money has already been debited, a chargeback is possible. Bills, on the other hand, should not be paid, as this can legally be interpreted as subsequent permission from the parents. But: Should there actually be a legal dispute, legal protection insurance will apply if children are actually also insured.

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