EU consumer authorities to take on Facebook, Google, Twitter

By Julia Fioretti
Facebook logo is seen at a start-up companies gathering at Paris' Station F in Paris, France, January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European consumer protection authorities will ask social media companies Facebook , Google and Twitter to amend their terms of service within one month or possibly face fines, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The authorities sent letters to the companies in December telling them that some of their terms of service broke European Union consumer protection law and that they needed to do more to tackle fraud and scams on their websites.

Some of the terms criticised by the authorities include not allowing users to go to court in their country of residence but requiring them to go to a California court where the companies are based, according to the letters seen by Reuters.

Other examples include not identifying sponsored content clearly, requiring consumers to waive mandatory rights such as the right to cancel a contract, and an excessive power for the companies to determine the suitability of content generated by users, according to the letters.

In the case of Google, the concerns were about its social network Google+.

Google, Facebook and Twitter were not immediately available for comment.

The companies proposed some solutions to solve the issues and discussed them with the authorities on Thursday, the person said, adding that the meeting was constructive.

The authorities are being supported by the European Commission - the EU executive - and could impose fines if they are still not satisfied.

U.S. tech companies have faced tight scrutiny in Europe for the way they do business, from privacy to removing illegal or hateful content quickly.

The authorities also proposed setting up a standard communication channel with the companies whereby they could notify them of content deemed illegal and the action requested, according to the letters.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)