Insights European Commission says social media companies need to do more to fully comply with EU consumer rules


Following publication of the changes made by Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to align their terms of services with EU consumer protection rules, the Commission has said that social media companies still need to do more to respond to the requests, made last March by the Commission and Member States’ consumer authorities, to comply with EU consumer rules.

The Commission said that the changes already made will benefit more than a quarter of a billion of EU consumers who use social media: 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, similarly to the off-line service providers. However, the Commission said, the changes only partially fulfil the requirements under EU consumer law.

The Commission said that while 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.

When it comes to the “notice and action procedure” used by consumer protection authorities to report and request the removal of illegal content, the changes by some companies are insufficient. While Google+ has set up a protocol, including deadlines to deal with the requests, Facebook and Twitter have only agreed to provide a dedicated email address that national authorities can use to notify infringements, without committing to deal with such requests within specific timeframes.

As already stated in its Communication on tackling illegal content online published in September 2017, the Commission expects online platforms to “swiftly and proactively” detect, remove and prevent the re-appearance of illegal content online. The Commission is currently working on follow-up actions to this Communication.

National consumer authorities and the Commission will monitor the implementation of the promised changes and will actively use the notice and action procedure provided by the companies. They will focus on illegal commercial content concerning unwanted subscriptions and other scams. Authorities may take action including enforcement measures where necessary.

In April, the Commission will present a “New Deal for Consumers”. This reform will propose to modernise existing consumer laws and ensure that they are properly enforced. To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.