Media reports last week indicated that the European Commission was on the verge of making social networks amend their terms of service to comply with European Union (EU) regulations. EU consumer authorities and the European Commission have met with the representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google to discuss proposed solutions.
The European Commission has given the companies one month to finalise their proposals, after which the authorities will review them. The companies stand to face enforcement action if the final proposals are not satisfactory.
The companies have agreed to amend unfair terms of service, as well as take measures to protect consumers from frauds and scams that are perpetrated through the social networks. The social networks have been directed to ensure that the users can sue the companies in their respective states of residence, and it is illegal for the terms of service to deprive users of the right to take the companies to court. The social media companies also cannot deprive users of mandatory rights, such as the right to withdraw from an online purchase.
Social media companies cannot totally exclude themselves from the liability of providing adequate performance of the service. Sponsored content has to be easily identifiable as such, and cannot be hidden. The companies cannot change the terms of service without giving a notice period to users to withdraw from the contract if they choose to, and without providing clear reasoning behind the changes. The social media companies cannot have complete discretionary powers on the removal of content.
The social networks have been ordered to establish a direct channel of communication with consumer protection authorities. The channel will be used to alert the social networks of scams and frauds on the networks. The networks are required to pull down such content as and when they become aware of the misleading content.
Misleading discounts, fake promotions, free apps with hidden costs, are some of the kinds of content that the EU wants to protect its users from. Sale of counterfeit products through social networks has also been banned.