Social media companies Facebook, Alphabet and Twitter will have to amend their terms of service for European users within a month or face the risk of fines, the European Commission said on Friday.
EU consumer authorities and organisations have received complaints from consumers, who have been targeted by fraud or scams when using social media websites, as well as having been subject to certain terms of services that do not respect EU consumer law.
On this basis, EU consumer authorities sent a letter to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ last November asking them to address two areas of concern.
On Thursday 16 March, EU consumer authorities and the European Commission met with these companies to hear and discuss their proposed solutions. The companies in question will finalise detailed measures on how to comply with the EU regulatory framework within one month. The Commission and the consumer authorities will review the final proposals. If they are not satisfactory, consumer authorities could ultimately resort to enforcement action.
The companies have agreed to propose changes focusing on two areas:
- Unfair terms and conditions;
- addressing fraud and scams that mislead consumers when using the social networks.
According to the EU authorities, social media platforms' terms of services should be brought into conformity with European consumer law.
In addition consumers should be informed in a clear and understandable manner about their rights.
This means in practice that, amongst others:
- Social media networks cannot deprive consumers of their right to go to court in their Member State of residence;
- Social media networks cannot require consumers to waive mandatory rights, such as their right to withdraw from an on-line purchase;
- Terms of services cannot limit or totally exclude the liability of Social media networks in connection with the performance of the service;
- Sponsored content cannot be hidden, but should be identifiable as such;
- Social media networks cannot unilaterally change terms and conditions without clearly informing consumers about the justification and without given them the possibility to cancel the contract, with adequate notice;
- Terms of services cannot confer unlimited and discretionary power to social media operators on the removal of content.
- Termination of a contract by the social media operator should be governed by clear rules and not decided unilaterally without a reason.
Social media companies must remove any fraud and scams appearing on their websites that could mislead consumers, once they become aware of such practices.
Germany said this week it planned a new law calling for social networks such as Facebook to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 million).