Social media companies have a month to update service terms in the EU

If their changes don't satisfy the European Commission then Twitter, Google and Facebook could face fines

European regulators want changes in the terms of service for Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.
Credit: Peter Sayer

Facebook, Twitter and Google have been given a month to make changes to their user agreements in the European Union or face "enforcement action."

European consumer authorities put the social media services on notice last November that their terms of service did not comply with EU law, asked them to make changes and to address the problem of scams that misled users of the services.

The authorities and the European Commission met with the companies on Thursday to discuss their proposed changes, and gave them a month to make their final proposals, the European Commission said Friday. If those proposals don't satisfy the authorities, then they could take enforcement action, the Commission said.

The European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, said Friday it was unacceptable that European consumers had to take their disputes with the companies to courts in California, and that they were deprived of their rights under EU law to withdraw from online purchases.

She called on the social media companies to take more responsibility for dealing with scams and fraud conducted via their platforms.

For the social media companies to bring their terms of service into compliance with EU law, the regulators say they must allow consumers to raise disputes in the courts of their country of residence, and not force them to waive their mandatory rights. These rights include being able to withdraw from online purchases. The companies should not be able to grant themselves the right to remove content or change contract terms without notice.

The regulators identified a number of fraudulent practices that exploit the social media companies' networks, including scams taking payment from consumers, sale of counterfeit products, or "subscription traps" in which consumers believe they are registering for a free trial but end up agreeing to make ongoing payments.

They want the social media companies to remove such scams from their websites on demand, and to provide national consumer protection authorities with a single point of contact to highlight such illegal content and arrange for it to be taken down.

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