On Tuesday, the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris decided on a claim presented by the French consumer association Que choisir against Google and challenging the company's practices and contract terms involved in the (recently discontinued) Google+ service.
The Court analysed these terms in light of consumer legislation, and in particular unfair terms provisions in the Code de la consommation, and data protection rules. They also, possibly quite crucially, relied on a number of provisions in the same Code which dictate the information which consumers must receive prior to contract conclusion.
Different types of terms were, in this context, considered as invalid:
1) Terms which described the purpose of data collection in a way that did not allow the consumer to really understand what their information was going to be used for
2) Terms concerning geo-localisation
3) Terms allowing the provider to change the data concerning certain users, and to keep a log of old data that a user has sought to rectify
4) Terms requiring users to accept that their information may be stored outside of the EU/EEA, without safeguards
5) Terms allowing the provider to change their conditions, or to terminate the provision, without indication on which grounds such measures could be taken
7) Another term, concerning cookies, alerted consumers that "not all services" could reasonably work without them, but did not give any indication as to what the specific impact of refusing cookie collection could be
In particular to the extent that, such as for geo-localisation, the Court seems to indicate separate approval - i.e., approval that is not obligatory in order to get access to the service - Que choisir has commented that the decision marks an end to "les conditions générales interminables à accepter en bloc". In some cases, where the terms contested were plainly against data protection legislation, the decision should also mean that the terms should no more be employed.
On the other hand, in so far as transparency was the reason for invalidating many of the controversial clauses, it will remain to be seen what the practical consequences of the decision - which, is, furthermore, still subject to appeal - will be. Interesting times!
(A PDF copy of the decision, in French, is available on Que Choisir's website as linked above)