Some Chinese companies have violated customers’ rights through the misuse of personal data and “intimidation” when it comes to shopping and promotions, a government-backed consumer association said on Thursday.
The statement by the China Consumers Association (CCA) did not specify the names of the companies, however, the complaint comes following the increase in the scrutiny of technology giants enacted by Beijing, which reverses the former ‘laissez-faire’ approach on the Internet .
“Consumers are being pressured by data algorithms and are being bullied,” said the CCA in a statement cited by the agency Reuters.
In this regard, the Chinese association warned that companies should stop using systems to digitize consumers’ personal data. Algorithms that check Internet usage and other user data then send targeted ads and promotions, depriving customers of choice.
Some of the products and services promoted by these automated systems “violate the law, public order and good customs”, the association also denounced. “Consumers’ moral values and concepts can even be distorted by algorithms and become ‘toys’ in the hands of platform operators,” he added.
In December, Beijing issued a set of rules designed to prevent monopolistic behavior by companies on the Internet, marking China’s first serious regulatory step against the sector.
China has also warned tech giants to prepare for further scrutiny as it has imposed fines and announced business investigations involving the Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings.
Chinese state-owned media have become increasingly critical of technology companies’ violation of consumer rights.
In September, a state-owned broadcasting company published the results of a survey that showed that 75% of respondents believed they had been treated unfairly when shopping online.