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Bundeskartellamt launches sector inquiry into smart TVs

Date of issue: 13.12.2017

Since June this year, the Bundeskartellamt has the capacity to conduct sector inquiries in order to detect consumer law infringements. Using this competence the authority now aims to shed some light on how producers of so-called “smart TVs” handle user data. In so doing, the Bundeskartellamt will take a particularly close look at the terms of contract used by manufacturers.

Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt: “Smart TVs are merely one example of the ever growing connectedness of things in private life and the issue of knowingly and unknowingly disclosing personal data. For the purposes of our inquiry we have deliberately picked an everyday item which is also used by people who are not very technology-savvy. The fate of consumer data once released and their commercial use will certainly keep us busy beyond the current sector inquiry.”

Unlike traditional TV sets, smart TVs have an internet connection through which the viewers not only receive data and programmes but also transmit their user data. There is reason to believe that smart TVs pass on such personal data without the user being appropriately informed or being able to object to such transfer. The sector inquiry’s primary objective is now to clarify if and to what extent smart TV manufacturers collect, pass on and commercially use personal data, and whether the persons concerned are being appropriately informed of this practice.

As a first step, questionnaires will be sent to all major TV manufacturers in early 2018. This survey aims to reveal potential weaknesses in general terms and conditions, data protection and data safety. The insights gathered from this sector inquiry should also help the Bundeskartellamt in identifying further consumer protection issues in the Internet of Things.

Press release (pdf)

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