Audiovisual media services directive must protect consumers

The audiovisual media services directive must protect consumers, argues Hansjörg Höltkemeier.

Hansjörg Höltkemeier, President of the European Lotteries | Photo credit: European Lotteries

By Hansjörg Höltkemeier

06 Feb 2017

Over the past decade, the way in which we access and consume content has changed and progressed dramatically. Today, we can communicate with each other constantly, access the internet and watch TV from anywhere in the world. 

However, with these technological advances, comes risks and challenges that policy makers and regulators must address, in order to keep consumers fully protected.

Last year, the European Commission put forward a proposal to update the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS), which governs EU-wide coordination of national legislation on all audiovisual media.


The AVMS Directive aims to protect consumers and create a level playing field for emerging audiovisual media. Yet, despite having important objectives for the benefit of society, there are certain aspects of the directive that are contradictory to these aims. 

One of these aspects is 'commercial communications' for gambling services. In order to protect public order and/or consumers, gambling policy is a national, member state competence and is excluded from the scope of the directive.

However, 'commercial communications' for gambling services currently falls within its scope. This has led to illegal gambling operators abusing the system by using the country of origin principle to broadcast gambling advertisements in countries where these products are illegal and by doing so, undermining member state gambling policy.

Members of the European Lotteries, the association representing all national lotteries operating games of chance for the public benefit, operate only in member states where they are explicitly allowed to do so. While the primary objective is to protect consumers our members also contribute more than €20bn a year to state budgets and the funding of good causes.

Through cross border audio-visual commercial communications, illegal operators undermine the regulatory systems established by member states, which goes against the underpinning objectives of this vital piece of legislation.

In 2013, the European Parliament questioned the Commission about what could be done to stop this practice.

It is evident that further measures must be taken in order to stop this problem that is dangerously misleading for consumers. It is fundamental that in all member states, consumers can distinguish between illegal offers and legal ones. Many supervisory advertising authorities also lack the means to intervene against such advertising.

In order to fully protect consumers, which the AVMS Directive aims to do, gambling advertising and marketing must be compliant with the legislative framework surrounding gambling operations in member states. Therefore, gambling advertising and marketing should be excluded from the country of origin principle and the directive.

This issue will be discussed in further detail during an event in the European Parliament in Strasbourg later this month on 14 February.


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