To comply with the European Union’s consumer protection policy, social media companies Facebook, Twitter and Google+ need to align their terms of services with the new rules.
More than a quarter of a billion of EU consumers stand to benefit from the changes. Under the new rules, EU consumers will not be forced to waive mandatory EU consumer rights, such as their right to withdraw from an on-line purchase. They will also 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, similarly to the off-line service providers.
However, the changes only partially fulfil the requirements under EU consumer law.
“As social media networks are used as advertising and commercial platforms, they must fully respect consumer rules,” said Vera Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “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; however, it is unacceptable that this is still not complete and it is taking so much time.
“This confirms that we need a ‘New Deal for Consumers’. EU consumer rules should be respected and if companies don’t comply, they should face sanctions,” she added.
According to a European Commission press release, even though Google’s latest proposals appear to be in line with the requests made by consumer authorities, Facebook and Twitter, have only partially addressed important issues about their liability and about how users are informed of possible content removal or contract termination.
In related news, Facebook said it had worked with EU authorities to make changes to its terms and to ensure greater transparency. It said further updates of the terms were planned later this year.
“We have long had tools in place to inform people about content removals and intend to expand these tools later this year,” a Facebook spokeswoman said.
A Google spokesman declined to comment and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.