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EU orders Facebook and Google to prevent consumer scams

They must find fraud-fighting solutions soon or face "enforcement action."
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
March 17, 2017
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Social media platforms are still a wild, wild west of consumer fraud, with uncountable numbers of scams everywhere. The EU has ordered Facebook, Google and Twitter to put a stop to them or risk facing "enforcement action." It's demanding that the social media companies find a way to spot and remove such listings as soon as they're aware of them and create direct communication lines with watchdogs to discover wrongdoing.

"Social media companies need to take more responsibility in addressing scams and frauds ... it is not acceptable that EU consumers can only call on a court in California to resolve a dispute," said EU Commissioner Věra Jourová in a statement.

Authorities and advocacy groups are getting more and more complaints from consumers about scams and services that don't respect EU consumer laws. If you fall for a "Microsoft support" scam originating from a nation outside the union, the fraudster obviously isn't going to offer you a refund or 30-day cooling-off period. Instead, "given the growing importance of online social media networks," the EU intends to start holding the hosting platforms responsible, said Jourová.

The aim is to stop scams involving consumer payments, subscription traps via free trials, counterfeit product sales and fake promotions. The EU says Facebook, Google and others cannot "deprive consumers of their right to go to court" in their home countries, require consumers to waive their rights, hide sponsored content or change contract terms and conditions without consumer consent, among other things.

Considering the huge number of scams that quickly appear and disappear, the new rules could make enforcement a costly challenge (though as critics have pointed out, Facebook can spot a naked breast faster than you can say "double-standard"). The Commission is giving the three firms a month to come up with solutions, or "consumer authorities could ultimately resort to enforcement action." We've reached out to Facebook, Google and Twitter for comment and will update the story if we hear back.

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