The largest U.S.-based social media companies are coming under a legal spotlight in Europe. The European Commission, which oversees consumer rights on the continent, warned networks to comply or face the consequences. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are among the targets for the warning.
This is not just any warning, it has come from the top. The commissioner says she is losing patience with social media companies and wants them to meet European standards:
“I am becoming very impatient,” commissioner Věra Jourová said at a press briefing today. “In our opinion there are in the terms and conditions of these American companies several very unfavorable conditions for the EU consumer. And if they want to make big business using the benefit of operating in the European market they have to be compliant with the EU consumer protection standards and rules.”
Back on March, we reported on growing frustration in the EU over social media privacy concerns. The Commission sent Facebook, Alphabet, and Twitter a letter stating they were in violation of regulatory law.
An ongoing investigation has centered around terms and conditions that authorities deem to be unfair. The March letter gave each company a month to remedy issues found. Among issues found was limiting the ability for users to take the companies to court. Other accusations include forcing users to waive rights such as the ability to withdraw from an online purchase.
“We received two answers out of three — one company asked for more time for the response,” Jourová says. “What we want them to do is to make their terms and conditions to be in full compliance with the high European standards of consumer protection. That’s why we asked them for concrete proposals, we set a deadline, and we will wait for the last answer and we will assess and analyze whether this is sufficient for us.”
“In case this dialogue does not work we will have to help the national enforcers to launch the co-ordinated action,” she added.
It seems Facebook, Google, and Twitter have ignored the Commission’s call to make changes. Regulators are clamping down by adding more proposed changes that would be implemented by the end of September.
Jourová is being clear and says the companies are at their last chance. Fines and legal action will be taken if the September deadline passes without resolution.
Europe is notoriously strict on tech companies. This year has seen the Commission target companies that it believes are not complying with laws. Apple is in the midst of an ongoing tax wrangle over Irish breaks, while Google was recently handed a record fine of over $2 billion.
Microsoft has not been without its own problems in Europe. The Commission is currently holding a complaint against Microsoft from Kaspersky Lab. The Russian security company says Microsoft is holding back third-party anti-virus providers on Windows 10.