EU Threatens Facebook With Sanctions

Photo from Ukrinform–UATV

The European Commission (EC) has warned Facebook that it will face sanctions unless it changes its “misleading” terms and conditions, said Vĕra Jourová, the EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, in a statement.

“My patience has reached its limit. While Facebook assured me to finally adapt any remaining misleading terms of services by December, this has been ongoing for too long. It is now time for action and no more promises. If the changes are not fully implemented by the end of the year, I call on consumer authorities to act swiftly and sanction the company,” she said.

Authorities want Facebook to better protect consumers’ rights, including the ability to withdraw from an online purchase, sue in Europe and not in California where Facebook is based. The EU also wants more consumer-friendly rules around the social media platform’s legal liability when its service performs poorly.

Penalties for breaching consumer law differ across the EU’s 28 member states and the commissioner did not specify any financial penalty.

The social media company is facing complaints from the EU on several fronts, from its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal to online hate speech. The latest action focuses on how Facebook uses data, as well as its policy on taking down posts and pictures.

The commission began investigating social media companies’ compliance with EU consumer rules after complaints from French authorities following a spate of fraud cases.

Google, Facebook, Airbnb and Twitter were asked to make changes to their terms and conditions to meet EU consumer standards.

The companies were also asked to clearly identify sponsored content and provide people with clear information about how their data was used. They have largely fallen into line, although Twitter still has some changes to make.

The commission acknowledged that Facebook had made some changes but said its terms and conditions remained problematic because Facebook “tells consumers that their data and content is used only to improve their overall ‘experience’ and does not mention that the company uses these data for commercial purposes.”

Facebook said an update to its terms of service in May included “the vast majority” of changes regulators wanted. “Our terms are now much clearer on what is and what isn’t allowed on Facebook and on the options people have,” the company said. It added it would continue “close cooperation” with regulators “to understand any further concerns and make appropriate updates”.

Europe’s new data protection rules, General Data Protection Regulation came into force on May 25, 2018. They update and modernize the principles enshrined in the 1995 Data Protection Directive, giving EU citizens more rights to know how their personal data is used.