Data: a landmark judgment condemns Twitter to a fine of 100,000 euros
This is the end of a showdown that opposed, for ten years, Twitter to UFC-Que…
This is the end of a showdown that opposed, for ten years, Twitter to UFC-Que Choisir. The Paris Court of Appeal has ordered the social network to pay 100,000 euros in compensation to the consumer defense NGO, in the case of the general conditions of use (CGU) of Twitter. But this judgment of April 14, to which “Les Echos” had access, has consequences for all platforms since they will now have to respect… the consumer code.
The conflict started in 2014. That year, UFC-Que Choisir took Twitter to court to cancel 269 clauses in the T&Cs published between 2012 and 2018, which they said were abusive or illegal, with regard to consumer rights. . For example, the ***ociation criticized Twitter for formulations that were too vague or imprecise, harming the proper information of users.
More generally, the issue was also whether consumer law could apply. UFC-Que Choisir argued that yes. For her, Twitter users are consumers who exchange their personal data for a service that is only apparently free (since it is financed through advertising). Twitter believed otherwise.
“Several million French people concerned”
In 2018, the tribunal de grande instance of Paris had given reason to UFC Que Choisir. Twitter Inc and Twitter International Company (the company based in Ireland) were then sentenced to a fine of 50,000 euros for the benefit of UFC, for compensation for the non-pecuniary damage caused “to the collective interest of consumers. In 2019, however, Twitter appealed, extending the case until today.
However, the Court dismissed Twitter and doubled the fine, a half-victory for UFC which sought 1 million euros in compensation. “The maquis of clauses and their often useless repetition […] harm the consumer’s understanding and quite simply dissuade him from taking cognizance of it,” reads the ruling. Given the number of illegal or abusive clauses between 2012 and 2018, “the damage thus caused to the collective interest of consumers was therefore spread over time and affected several million French users”.
A modest penalty
Admittedly, the sanction remains modest, even for a Twitter in difficulty. In the second quarter of 2022 (just before the takeover by Elon Musk and the withdrawal from the Stock Exchange), the platform had incurred a net loss of 270 million dollars, for a turnover of $1.18 billion. Since then, Elon Musk has ***ured that Twitter should return to financial balance in the coming weeks.
However, the stop is notable. Because until now, in similar cases, “companies were sentenced to a symbolic euro fine”, recalls master François-Pierre Lani, partner at the Derriennic firm, who represented UFC-Que Choisir in this case. Above all, the Court considered that the T&Cs of the platforms constitute contracts and must therefore comply with the Consumer Code. The judgment therefore broadens the legal framework applying to platforms.
Twitter will now have to redact the disputed clauses that would still appear in the current versions of the TOS. According to our information, Twitter has decided to comply. In 2014, UFC-Que Choisir launched similar procedures against Facebook and Google for the same types of abuse. But once sentenced, the two giants did not appeal.