AER Position on Consumer Credit Directive (CCD)

8 April 2019 – AER’S COMMENTS ON THE REVIEW OF THE CONSUMER CREDIT DIRECTIVE (CCD)

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Advertising is already regulated by strict rules set at EU and national level, usefully complemented by self-regulation. Commercially funded radio depends almost 100% on advertising: adding advertising restrictions equates to fewer and poorer free-to-air programmes. Warning messages in radio advertising is not the appropriate tool to convey consumer information, allowing well-informed purchase decisions. If these messages are deemed essential, they should not exceed one short sentence on radio. Also, the consumer’s decision is based on other sources, therefore making available information in a dedicated material at the point of sale or online, is much more useful and efficient.

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The Association of European Radios (AER) is a Europe-wide trade body representing the interest of over 4’500 commercially-funded radio stations across the EU28 and in Switzerland.

On January 14th, 2018, the European Commission opened a Public Consultation for review of the Consumer Credit Directive (CCD)[1]. AER welcomes this new consultation as the commercial radio industry fully supports the CCD’s principles of facilitating a well-functioning internal market and ensuring consumers are adequately protected.

The CCD requires at its article 4 that standard information be provided in any advertising concerning credit agreements, which indicates an interest rate or any figures relating to the cost of the credit to the consumer in a “clear, concise and prominent way”. Adverts for the banking and insurance sector, cars and retail are covered by these mandatory information requirements. Whilst these requirements apply to all media, they have a particular impact on radio advertising, as the information has to be read out loud. In that respect, there is clear evidence that this regulation is negatively affecting financial services, motors and retail businesses as well as the radio industry. As a principle, AER is convinced that the most effective and relevant place for the consumer to be well informed is the point of sale where he/she takes his/her decision. Advertising on radio is per se the wrong place for detailed and complex information.

 
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            AER’s key messages:
There should not be any warning messages on radio: the best place for information is at the point of sale;
If warning messages are considered to be necessary, they should merely signpost to a website / point of sale.
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The provisions set at article 4 of this text do not achieve consumer protection. At the same time, they hinder commercial radio’s access to the revenue associated with consumer credit-related advertising. Also, AER calls for the EU legislators to take into consideration radio as a unique medium, on which compulsory messages are especially burdensome due to its nature of audio-medium. Finally, commercial radios welcome the interest shown by the European Commission in this file and trust the Directive will be revised in order to take their plea into account.

AER’s response to this public consultation puts forward clear evidence to show that the standard information resulting from the CCD:

 

    1- Fails to protect consumers

AER fully supports the principle of making consumers aware of the risks taken when taking a credit, assisting them in making informed choices. However, providing information in radio advertising is bound to miss its aim as listeners tend to “tune out. In that sense, imposing information requirements in radio advertising does not appear to be an effective way to achieve the laudable objective of informing the consumer.

Studies conducted in the United Kingdom[2] and France[3] have shown that consumers do not fully benefit from the warning messages added to advertising on radio. These studies show that less than 4% of listeners in the UK and in France recall the total amount payable after listening to an ad with a representative example. In particular, a majority of listeners (60% in the UK and 88% in France) believe that financial terms and conditions are there to protect the advertiser or the brand, rather than the consumer.

Furthermore, with 82% of listeners in France not paying close attention to terms and conditions, consumers do not benefit from detailed information at this stage. Standard information therefore results in the message becoming completely ineffective, an utterance completely devoid of comprehensibility for the average listener receiving the advertising.

 

    2- Hinders commercial radios:

Commercial radios depend almost at 100% on advertising for revenues, enabling them to offer free-to-air and quality programmes. We believe the only viable business model for radio today and for a foreseeable future is broadcasting of free-to-air programmes. In that sense, advertising is a prerequisite for radios to produce free, useful and attractive content. This also entails ensuring that advertisers use radio as a medium. Therefore, any constraints on commercial radios’ revenues put their advertising-based model at risk.

In addition, media convergence has already put advertising investments at risk. Thus, to maintain its audience and its revenues, radio has been multiplying its presence on platforms but would not be able to cope with advertising bans or restrictions. In other words, any kind of advertising restriction has negative financial impact of commercially funded media and would severely endanger radios’ ability to pursue a viable economic activity.

Also, imposing advertising restrictions would threaten media pluralism to the detriment of radio listeners across Europe. Indeed, radio listeners rely on radio to access not only free entertaining but also informative content. Radio plays a fundamental role in today’s society: it is entrusted with many public interest obligations, and it is a key player of cultural diversity, media pluralism, access to creativity, social inclusion and disaster relief. In this regard, because radio already complies with strict local rules and journalistic standards and is by nature impervious to filter bubbles, it is the most trusted medium in Europe[4].

 

    3- Is unfit for radio as a medium:

When considering requirements in advertising and their likely effects, the specificities of each medium need to be properly taken into account. Indeed, because radio is a non-visual medium, requirements in advertising are particularly burdensome. When detailed messages are to be communicated in a radio advertisement, there have to be broadcast in an additional airtime to the latter. Consequently, such messages increase the amount of time, hence the price, of the considered commercial message, and lessens the commercial impact of the advertisement. These combined effects impact broadcast media, and radio in particular, and create confusing and incomprehensible advertising messages for the average listener.

The distinct nature of radio has been taken into account by the EU legislators in other pieces of legislations. Firstly, the Regulation (EU) 2017/1369 setting a framework for energy labelling[5] should be seen as a best practice for the application of advertising requirements to radios. Indeed, it differentiates clearly advertising from technical promotion material, the latter being delivered when the decision to purchase is performed, to complement the information obtained previously and help the purchasing decision. This Regulation has also been taken into account by the Report of the European Parliament on the Proposal 2018/0148 (COD)[6], which has been aligned on the energy labelling Regulation, as mentioned in its Impact Assessment.  Also, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive[7] at its article 7 states that consideration should be given to the “limitations of space of time” of the medium in question. This already acknowledges the importance for certain media such as radio to be treated differently in the interest of consumer understanding.

Finally, the specificity of radio as a medium has also been acknowledged at national level. For instance, in France[8], article L.121-3 of the French Consumer Code stresses that particular attention should be paid, with regards to radio advertising, to the “limitation of space of time” of the medium used as well as “measures taken by the practitioner to making available this information to the consumer by other means”.

 

    4- Calls for a revision:

AER welcomes the Public Consultation launched by the European Commission as it has been calling, together with other key actors of the sector, for the revision of this Directive. This call also reflects the perspective of the consumers, as 86% of listeners in France believe that the terms and conditions outlined on radio should be revised.

Radios have been stressing on a number of occasions that advertising in radio is not the right place to insert detailed information as it does not and cannot provide all information necessary for the final purchase decision. This decision is based on many other sources, such as brochures and websites, and information collected at the point of sale. Information is therefore much more useful to the consumer in dedicated information material, at the point of sale or online, when the decision to purchase is being performed.

Furthermore, consumers agree with these statements as a majority of listeners (72% in the UK and 86% in France) would rather listen to a shorter warning message signposting to a website to get further information, and read the terms and conditions in their own time.

The radio industry believes that an alternative message informing consumers about the risks of taking a credit can be suggested: AER considers that shorter, simpler but more focused warning messages could only benefit EU citizens. In that sense, providing less but more focused information to the listener, is more audible for the consumers, consequently improving the amount of substantial information retained by the latter.

To conclude, AER calls on the European Commission to follow its own findings that were reflected in a study it commissioned in 2012[9]. The study conclusions state that “[w]ith respect to audio media, such as radio or audio on the internet […], evidence suggests that consumers pay little attention to these, so extending the provisions of the Directive to radio and audio on the internet in an effective manner does not appear to be feasible.”

AER remains available to explain this position in further details, should this be helpful for the European Commision.

ENDS

08/04/2019

Contact details:

Marie-Pierre Moalic
Policy Officer
AER
Rue des deux églises, 26
1000 Brussels
marie-pierre.moalic(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)aereurope.org
Landline: +32.2.736.91.31
http://www.aereurope.org

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[1] Public Consultation, Evaluation of the Consumer Credit Directive, https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiatives/ares-2018-3472049/public-consultation_en

[2]Financial terms and conditions and consumer protection”, study published by Radiocentre, January 2016, https://www.radiocentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Financial-terms-and-conditions-and-The-Consumer-Credit-Directive-January-2016-Small.pdf

[3] « Perception des mentions légales à la radio », study conducted by IFOP France from les Indès Radios and le SIRTI, 26 October 2016,www.aereurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/SIRTI-Indes-IFOP_Perceptiondesmentionslegalesalaradio_28octobre2016.pdf

[4] European Commission Standard Eurobarometer Survey (latest EB90) published in November 2018, Radiocentre “Breaking News” report published in November 2017 and Kantar media study “Baromètre 2018 de la confiance des francais dans les medias”.

[5] Regulation (EU) 2017/1369 setting a framework for energy labelling, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32017R1369&from=EN

[6] European Parliament legislative resolution of 26 March 2019 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the labelling of tyres with respect to fuel efficiency and other essential parameters, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+TA+P8-TA-2019-0230+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN

[7] Directive 2005/29/EC concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market (‘Unfair Commercial Practices Directive’), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32005L0029&from=EN

[8] DGCCRF, « Lignes directrices sur les mentions dans la publicité radiophonique visant à assurer une information loyale du consommateur », December 2018, https://www.economie.gouv.fr/files/files/directions_services/dgccrf/consommation/Publicite/Lignes-directrices-mensions-publicite-radiophonique-2018.pdf

[9]Report on the implementation of Directive 1999/94/EC relating to the availability of consumer information on fuel economy and CO2 emissions in respect of the marketing of new passenger cars” published on 19 March 2012

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