EU warns Facebook, Google and Twitter that they must respect consumer rules

15 Feb 2018

European Commission, Brussels. Image: Quinta/Shutterstock

The European Commission says major tech companies aren’t doing enough to comply with consumer rules.

Facebook, Google and Twitter are all under increasing pressure from the European Commission (EC) and consumer authorities to address concerns about their liability and how users are told about the termination of contracts and removal of content.

Big tech companies need to step up

Requests were made in March 2017 for the three companies to make changes in order to comply with EU regulations around consumers. The changes involved Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus aligning their terms of service to the rules in the area.

The authorities say that the requests have only been partially addressed, and mentioned the possibility of punishments further down the line.

EU rules must be respected

European commissioner Věra Jourová said the use of social media networks as advertising and commercial platforms meant they should face the same rules as entities operating offline.

“EU consumer rules should be respected and if companies don’t comply, they should face sanctions,” she noted. “Some companies are now making their platforms safer for consumers; however, it is unacceptable that this is still not complete and it is taking so much time.”

The companies have made some amendments in certain areas: EU consumers will not be forced to waive mandatory EU consumer rights, such as their right to withdraw from an online purchase; they will be able to lodge their complaints in Europe, rather than in California; and the platforms will take up their fair share of responsibilities towards EU consumers, similar to offline organisations.

The latest proposals from Google appear to be in line with requests, but Facebook and Twitter still have not addressed certain aspects that need to change. Facebook said that it has made some changes and further updates will be expected later in 2018.

The EC expects online platforms to detect, remove and prevent the reappearance of illegal content online.

The national consumer authorities of EU member states and the EC will monitor the implementation of the promised changes by the firms, focusing on illegal commercial content concerning unwanted subscriptions and other scams. Moreover, authorities may take action, including enforcement measures where necessary.

This April, the EC will present the ‘New Deal for Consumers’ reform outlining the potential for modernising existing consumer law. A full outline of the three tech giants’ progress shows how much there is still to do.

European Commission, Brussels. Image: Quinta/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects