Social media companies ‘not compliant’ with EU consumer regulations

Vera Jourová promotes EU consumer regulations © Annika Haas
Vera Jourová © Annika Haas

Efforts made by social media companies to improve compliance with EU consumer regulations have been criticised by the European Commission.

The European Commission issued a number of requests to some of the biggest social media platforms in March last year, to ensure they took additional steps to become better compliant with EU consumer regulations.

The changes to their terms and conditions made by Facebook, Twitter and Google+ were been published last week, and the companies have agreed to amend specific elements of their terms of service to better comply with EU law. These include:

  • Terms limiting or excluding liability of social media platforms for problems with the performance of the service;
  • Terms requiring customers to waive mandatory EU consumer rights, such as the right to cancel an online purchase;
  • Terms mandating California law in any dispute process; and
  • Terms releasing the platform from an obligation to identify sponsored and advertising content.

The European Commission welcomed the efforts made by Google to improve compliance with EU consumer regulations, but warned that Facebook and Twitter are still falling short of requirements.

For example, Google+ has now set up a dedicated protocol to report and request the removal of illegal online content. However, Facebook and Twitter have only agreed to provide email addresses for use by national authorities, a measure that was particularly criticised as being insufficient to address illegal online content.

What did the commission criticise?

Vera Jourová, European Commissioner for Consumers, explained that despite the efforts already made, the companies in question need to do more to properly comply with EU consumer regulations.

She said: “As social media networks are used as advertising and commercial platforms, they must fully respect consumer rules. I am pleased that the enforcement of EU rules to protect consumers by national authorities is bearing fruit, as some companies are now making their platforms safer for consumers.”

On the other hand, she expressed disappointment with the incomplete measures taken by some of the social media companies: “It is unacceptable that this is still not complete and it is taking so much time. … EU consumer rules should be respected and if companies don’t comply, they should face sanctions.”

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