Decisions from the Advertising Board on the Memberships of Internet Shopping Sites


Recent developments in digitalization processes have increased consumers' orientation towards online environments, leading them to encounter more digital advertisements and applications. As a matter of fact, this situation also attracted the attention of the Advertising Board (Board) and was reflected in the files regarding the advertisements and promotions examined by the Board. In this context, 79% of the files discussed and decided on the Board's agenda in 2023 consisted of advertisements and applications published in digital media.


Regarding the impact of digitalization processes on consumers, the “Digital Consumer Protection Project/Phase I: Advertisement and Unfair Commercial Practices” project was carried out. In the announcement made by the Ministry on 15 January 2024, it was revealed that the first phase of the project was completed with the finalization of the Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices in Digital Media Research Report (Report).


In the Report, it is stated that one out of every two consumers are concerned about sharing their personal data in digital media. Another noteworthy data point in the Report is that seven out of every ten consumers tend to accept the “membership” and “electronic message approval” offered as a “condition to continue” while shopping online, while four out of every ten consumers tend to reject cookies.


Taking into account the results of the Report, the Board also scrutinized the websites that offer membership conditions to consumers at the purchase stage. In this context, in the bulletin numbered 343 published by the Board on 12 March 2024, the decisions made regarding 12 websites are quite remarkable.


In these decisions, the Board evaluates whether more personal data is requested from the consumer than the information that is mandatory and necessary for the purchase process, whether it is made difficult to unsubscribe by stipulating more severe conditions for unsubscribing from the membership than the methods stipulated for membership entry, whether cookie and commercial message approval are offered to consumer preference with the membership agreement, and whether personal data is shared with third parties for targeted advertising and marketing purposes.


In this context, the Board identified the following situations as unfair and/or deceptive commercial practices in the relevant decisions:


- Presentation of the “Continue Without Being a Member” option in different colors and in small font size, which is presented together with the “Become a Member” and “Log In” options,

- Mandatory request for personal data that is not required in the account creation and purchase process,

- The box for explicit consent to advertisements/promotions being pre-checked during the account creation process,

- Attempting to obtain commercial electronic message approval from consumers without active consent by adding conditions for advertisements/promotions to the membership contract,

- Failure to provide consumers with the same ease of refusal as acceptance of the targeted advertising condition,

- Consumers not being provided with any information, guidance, explanation, or option for cancellation of the membership; and

- Cancellation of membership not being as easy as during the membership registration phase.


The common denominator among the aforementioned practices is that they are deemed unfair and deceptive commercial practices according to consumer legislation. Unfair commercial practices encompass any commercial activity that deceives or misleads consumers, violating the principles of honesty and fair trade, while deceptive advertisements are defined as practices that significantly distort or are likely to distort the economic behavior of the average consumer (such as practices causing confusion with competitors' goods, services, brands, or other distinctive features).


The Board's assessments underscored that the aforementioned practices negatively impact consumers' decision-making processes or choices. These instances, where consumers are not adequately informed, often result in outcomes favoring companies over consumers.


Furthermore, the Board also concluded that preventing consumers from leaving no trace on the platform after purchasing a product falls within the same scope. Such situations were deemed misleading to consumers and contrary to the principles of fair competition.


The sanctions imposed on the 12 files evaluated by the Board include administrative fines, suspension, and corrective measures.


You can access the bulletin containing the relevant decisions of the Advertising Board here (only available in Turkish).

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