The International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, which is an organization of consumer protection authorities from more than 65 countries, just released, "Best Practice Principles:  Marketing Practices Directed Towards Children Online."  ICPEN said it released the guidance, "in order to discourage harmful marketing practices directed to children in the online world, and to support businesses in attempting to protect young consumers from harm." 

Is content directed to children? 

ICPEN said that the following factors should be considered when determining whether content is directed to children:

  • The nature of the marketing content.  Does the content appeal to children (such as, for example, by using characters or cartoons likely to appeal to children)? 
  • The placement and audience.  Will children likely constitute a "significant proportion" of the overall audience? 
  • The product or service.  Is it a product or service that is used by children or is it likely to appeal to them? 

What is a child? 

While countries vary in how they define what a child is, for purposes of these principles, ICPEN considers a "child" to be anyone who is under age 18. 

The principles

ICPEN identified four key principles "to prevent harms posed by direct marketing to children online."  The principles are:

  • Traders should make clear what is and what is not marketing.  ICPEN said that, "Ensuring transparency in online marketing is central to creating a safe online world for children."  
  • Traders should not use marketing techniques that exploit children's naivety, credulity, or lack of commercial knowledge.  ICPEN expressed particular concern with in-game purchases, loot boxes, and direct appeals to children to make purchases. 
  • Traders should not engage in the deceptive or harmful collection and use of children's data.  In particular, ICPEN highlighted "the harms associated when there is a lack of transparency around the collection and use of children's data and the harms that can arise when children are targeted with personalized ads." 
  • Traders should not market inappropriate products or services online to children.  ICPEN expressed particular concern that, because of social media, "children have direct and easy access to a wide variety of products, services and images," including those that are not suitable for them. 

In announcing the release of the principles, Stacy Feuer, Assistant Director for International Consumer Protection at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, said, "If you advertise abroad, or advise clients who do, you might want to check out ICPEN’s best practices so you can understand the range of issues that concern consumer protection agencies and the variety of approaches they use to ensure marketing to children online complies with the laws in their jurisdictions."