July 28, 2011

Mobile Surfing and Privacy in France

The #1 concern of ad agencies, brands and consumers in France, when it comes to the mobile internet, is privacy. And for good reason. We've seen high-profile scams and questionsable business practices that have tried consumer patience and hit users in the wallet.

We take these concerns seriously at BuzzCity.

In this column, we'd like to share with you some examples of the bad practices that have put French consumers on edge as well as what BuzzCity is doing to block unethical and rogue practices.

Please be sure to check out our other column that takes a closer look at the French mobile user and highlights how one innovative French company is making the most of m-Commerce.

SMS marketing has been used by a lot of French advertisers . . . and has annoyed a lot of French consumers. The French government reacted by passing a law requiring advertisers to give consumers the option of opting out of these lists. But when mobile users replied “stop” to these ads, some companies would send another SMS asking them to confirm their choice. Replying to this latter message added 4 euros to an unsuspecting consumer's telephone bill.

Meanwhile, this past December, a number of companies ran campaigns – particularly targeting iPhone users – inviting consumers to telephone Santa Claus. The cost: 8 euros for the first minute! Then an additional euro for every consecutive minute. In addition to being exhorbitant, the problem is that parents often leave their iPhones with their kids. And when their children saw an ad inviting them to talk to Santa . . . well, you can imagine how the parents felt when they saw their telephone bill.

Not long ago, on the French BuzzCity advertising network, we noticed a dating service campaign targeting Android phones. As soon as someone clicked on the banner, the dating app was automatically downloaded and the consumer was billed for it.

We blocked the campaign. We didn't have to do this. There's no legal requirement. But we're not going to sit by and watch an unethical company destroy our market. We owe it to our publishers and users.

Unfortunately, it's not feasible for us to check every campaign that runs on our network. There are just too many. But the moment we notice something wrong – or receive a complaint – we'll take action.

If you are aware of a campaign that should be blocked – or just have some feedback or questions – please contact us.

The French Mobile User and m-Commerce