‘Channel of dirt’: Jourová describes her Facebook experience

EU Commissioner in charge of Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova gives a press conference on AirBnB consumer action at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, 20 September 2018. [EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ]

Facebook came in for heavy criticism on Thursday (20 September), as EU justice chief Věra Jourová shone a light on her own Facebook experience as well as the issue of the tech giant’s non-compliance with EU consumer rules.

Responding to EURACTIV’s question as to why she no longer has a Facebook account, the Czech Commissioner said:

“For a short time, I had a Facebook account. It was a channel of dirt. I didn’t expect such an influx of hatred. I decided to cancel the account because I realised there will be less hatred in Europe after I do this.”

Jourová’s comments came as she announced that Facebook is also facing the prospect of heavy sanctions if it does not fall in line with EU consumer rules.

A February communication from the Commission informed Facebook that it needed to adjust how its users are informed of possible content removal and also said that its presentation of user contracts is not transparent enough.

Consumer watchdogs want fines against Twitter and Facebook for breaking EU rules

Consumer watchdogs have called for the European Commission to introduce a minimum fine against companies that break EU rules, after Facebook and Twitter failed to reform their user terms.

“My patience has reached its limit,” Jourová said.

“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.”

A Facebook spokesperson told EURACTIV that the company’s terms of service were updated in April and included the ‘majority’ of changes proposed by the Commission.

However, the commission hit back today by saying that Facebook’s April update of its terms of service is “misleading.”

“Facebook now 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,” a statement from Jourová’s office read.

While Facebook may face the full force of the Commission’s punitive measures, AirBnB received more of a commendation from Jourová after the company committed to making the necessary changes in order to abide by EU consumer regulation.

These include making clear whether accommodation is offered by a private individual or a professional, as well as improving the transparency of prices in bookings so that users can more easily total cost of bookings, including additional fees such as service costs and cleaning charges.

AirBnb has until the end of this year to make the changes that they have committed to, on all EU language versions of their website.

Consumer protection authorities across the EU have the power to fine companies for breaching EU rules and will look into possible sanctions in the new year if it transpires that AirBnB and Facebook have not sufficiently complied with regulations.

But the Commission does not appear to be in the mood to wait for long for Facebook to catch up with EU rules.

“I am becoming rather impatient,” Jourová said.

“We have been in dialogue with Facebook almost two years. Progress is not enough for me, I want to see the results.”

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