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anti-doping work online during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Scams related to COVID-19
COVID-19: Commission and national consumer authorities are on high alert and call on platforms to stop scams and unfair practices
As the new virus spreads across the EU, rogue traders advertise and sell products, such as protective masks, caps and hand sanitizers to consumers which allegedly prevent or cure an infection. It is in the general interest to guarantee a safe online environment where consumers, in particular in the context of distress caused by the current crisis, feel well protected against any illegal practices that potentially put their health at risk.
On 20 March 2020, the consumer protection (CPC) authorities of the Member States, with the support of the Commission, issued CPC Common Position COVID19 on the most reported scams and unfair practices in this context. The objective is to ask and help online platform operators to better identify such illegal practices, take them down and prevent similar ones to reappear.
On 23 March 2020, Commissioner For Justice and Consumers Didier Reynders wrote to a number of platforms, social media, search engines and market places to require their cooperation in taking down scams from their platforms, following the common position endorsed by the CPC network. Platforms replied to his call for cooperation and Commissioner Reynders welcomes their positive approach. The Commission and platforms continue information exchanges on regular basis. You can find their replies below.
On 30 April 2020, the CPC network, under the coordination of the Commission, launched a broad screening (“sweep”) of coronavirus related products advertised on websites and online platforms. More details on the sweep can be found in the summary document. The main findings show that rogue traders continue to mislead consumers with a variety of illegal practices but online platforms are taking measures to address this. The Commission will continue to keep consumers informed whenever necessary with updated advice to consumers and traders.
Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 consumer protection action against scams and unfair practices in a nutshell.
Consumers should be on high alert when shopping online, and traders should be fully aware of the rules. As recent checks carried out by national Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) authorities have shown, rogue traders use various means to attract consumers, there are a significant number of products which are falsely presented as able to cure or prevent COVID-19 infections or bear false conformity certificates and in some cases, fraudsters also use offers to steal email addresses and passwords.
Where consumers come across unsupported or dubious offers on online platforms, they should use the reporting tools provided by the platform operator or contact the competent national authorities or consumer organisations. The Network of European Consumer Centres (ECC) has published COVID-19 related consumer information and offers support to consumers. The Safety Gate can help identify dangerous goods found in the EU.
Consumers can also look for general information from authoritative sources that many platform and website operators link on their websites in order to help consumers identify false information or claims in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the EU, traders must provide their identity and contact details: consumers should consider shopping elsewhere if this information is not easily available.
Beware of spellings errors such as “C?V?D?19”, “cor/na?vir?s”: these are commonly used to avoid detection by website operators’ algorithms. Read web addresses and page titles carefully, and avoid using pages with systematic misspellings.
Remember that there is currently no scientific proof that any food or food supplement can cure or prevent COVID-19 infections.
Products must be clearly identified with precise and understandable text descriptions: consumers should be cautious when they see mainly promotional elements such as :
Consumers should identify pressure selling techniques and avoid falling into a trap, such as:
Market conditions should not be falsely presented:
*Updated on 26 May 2020 following the results of the screening (‘sweep’) of online platforms and advertisements launched on 30 April 2020.
The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD) prohibits commercial practices which deceive consumers about the benefits or the results to be expected from the use of a product; or when a trader claims that a product is able to cure an illness or that the product is only available for a very limited time when this is not true. Where a trader claims that his product is able to cure an illness, they need to be ready to provide the relevant evidence as to the accuracy of such claims. In accordance with the requirement of professional diligence under the UCPD and Directive 2000/31/EC, platform operators who are active in the EU should take appropriate corrective measures whenever they become aware of any illegal activity taking place on their websites. The CPC network, with the support of the European Commission, investigate potential breaches of these rules and take the necessary coordinated enforcement measures.
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Making online higher education work: Opportunities, challenges and policy imperatives under COVID-19
How to make online higher education work? Yifei Yan (LSE) explores the opportunities, challenges, and policy imperatives regarding online higher education under COVID-19.
Never in the history of higher education has online education been of greater importance than it is now. With the COVID-19-forced closure of universities, an unprecedented number of university teachers and students are pushed to embrace online teaching and learning for the first time. Even for those who had prior experience, the increased frequency, regularity and intensity of it as the new norm still represents a quite unchartered territory.
With this new reality, some remain clueless and ill-prepared; some hope for a silver bullet or “magic button” for getting online education done, while others are keen to reimagine the future of higher education. Diverse as these reactions and attitudes may seem, what they suggest is that COVID-19 is, in fact, creating both promises and pitfalls for online teaching and learning in the higher education sector.
Coexistence of opportunities and challenges
While COVID-19 looks like a perfect storm to all those affected, its impact on the higher education sector can be considered relatively light in many ways. Rarely are university students and staff suffering from extreme adversity or survival challenges due to the current pandemic. While furlough and other forms of job insecurity remain a threat, the scale of its impact may still be much smaller than what is experienced in other service sectors. Overall, online education remains a robust alternative in which one of the main activities of the sector, namely teaching and learning, can be resumed. Even for those who have not experienced it until recently, online education may not be a completely strange concept. Given the wide penetration of the internet and other technological advancements, surfing “online” has largely been embedded into everyday life for university students and teachers in many parts of the world. The maturity and availability of a variety of web-based tools and resources, be it meeting software, discussion forums, course material storage platforms or collaborative worksheets, is indeed the foundational stone for making this alternative viable.
While these features offer great potentials for online higher education to rise above the turbulent tide of COVID-19, all is far from well so far. Student dissatisfaction is increasingly reported that their online learning experience has been disappointing, with reactions ranging from demanding refund of tuition fees through petition to organized strikes.
Calling for better understanding and action
This coexistence of opportunities and challenges has essentially put the effectiveness of online engagement to the forefront of policy design and practice of the higher education sector, so as to truly harness the opportunities and mitigate the undesirable tension and disappointment.
Whereas existing research on effectiveness of online or distant education may provide some guidance to the current situation, it is far from adequate. Notably, existing prescriptions largely focus on the pedagogical aspects, such as the role of online instructors and the learning community. Despite its importance, this focus leaves two important and interrelated policy inquiries under-explored, which the sector and its participants can nevertheless ill-afford in the current scenario. The first is the factors that facilitate or prevent effective participant engagement, such as their e-readiness, work style and work-life balance. The second is, accordingly, what higher education institutions and policymakers can do to support the participants.
In examining these two aspects, one needs to be mindful that they are not only about technology. While technical support from university IT departments is indispensable and has been well appreciated, its contribution is necessary but insufficient.
Above all, online education as it is being experienced now entails an intense blurry of previous boundaries between work/study and life, where the “life” part may further involve caring responsibilities, especially for those living with children and elderly. Not only would this imply the sharing of working space with these family members, but the time for teaching, preparation and working in general may also be more fragmented than “business-as-usual”. Even for those without heavy caring responsibilities, the challenges of effective engagement remain, which range from resisting distractions, coordinating teaching/ studying with other survival necessities to fighting solitude and anxiety.
Capturing a broader picture of what affects effective online engagement has great policy implications in the current COVID-19 episode. Essentially, it highlights that policy support in this regard should look beyond technical assistance and include, for instance, due acknowledgement of the difficulties in students’ and staff’s work-life balance and visible efforts in maintaining their wellbeing. Yet for such support to materialize, many more questions need to be investigated with greater depth: whether and to what extent does prior experience/ exposure to online education contribute to effective online engagement currently? How do caring responsibilities add to the difficulty of effective online engagement? How do the challenges of effective online engagement compare with those in traditional classroom teaching? What are the good practices of institutional support that have emerged?
Like it or not, not only does online education appear to be “the only game in town” for the moment, but it is likely to stay in the foreseeable future. Effective online engagement is thus no longer the exclusive concern for the few scholars or early adopters of education technology but has become a high-stake priority that deserves the attention of students, educators, university management as well as policymakers. The lopsided focus on either students or staff from previous research and action should also be rectified, as policies that facilitate effective online engagement should understand and cater to a wide range of situations and concerns of teachers and students, as well as other stakeholders. This, in turn, is the key to realize the promises and address the pitfalls of online higher education, which is not only relevant to today’s epidemic-stricken situation, but the lessons explored and learned will also be valuable long afterwards.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the COVID-19 blog or LSE. Image by Shadowssettle: licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Author: Yifei Yan
International Sambo Federation moves anti-doping work online during pandemic
The International Sambo Federation (FIAS) has continued its anti-doping work online during the coronavirus pandemic.
A series of webinars are to be held to provide education to athletes, coaches and their support teams.
All aspects of the anti-doping process will be covered, with the first webinar already exclusively taking place for members of the Sambo Union of Asia.
Forty-four people took part with information about the second webinar due to be announced shortly.
“At the webinar we focused on current recommendations related to the worldwide pandemic crisis and the possible return on the sambo mats,” said Kamila Vokoun Hajkova, a FIAS project manager.
“Key elements to stay fit physically and mentally, the implementation of new medical rules such as needle policy or mandatory pre-event examination and many others.
“We also shared with the attendees the tips for online educational courses which are also accessible from our website.”
FIAS said that education was a key “prevention strategy” against doping in the martial art.
“Therefore, the FIAS created an online learning experience in order to continue its education efforts during the COVID-19 crisis,” the governing body said.
“This webinar series aims at giving athletes, coaches and their support personnel an overview of all aspects of doping prevention.”
Author: By Dan Palmer