Main Takeaways for Consumers

TikTok’s update to their terms of service, which are set to go into effect on May 19th, will change how users solve disputes. This update comes in the wake of several privacy concerns and legal challenges for the social media platform. Here are the main takeaways for consumers.  

The new terms of service define the process by which users resolve issues. In it, TikTok makes changes to the dispute resolution process by the addition of Section 12. The dispute resolution process, for either side, begins with an internal informal dispute resolution system. Both TikTok and users begin this process and must submit their requests in writing. Only after going through this process can it be escalated to arbitration. Failure to use informal dispute resolution would be grounds for dismissing the complaint.

Section B details additional paths for resolution following the internal process. Aside from issues that cannot be subject to arbitration by law, the new terms of service require users to bring their complaints to binding arbitration rather than allowing them to go to court.

The new terms also prohibit class action lawsuits. If more than one hundred people file similar arbitration requests, each group of one hundred is to be arbitrated in batches, to avoid overwhelming the system. There is also an option to request to opt out of this section in their terms of service by emailing them within 30 days of becoming subject to it.

Change to dispute resolutions comes in the context of growing concerns about TikTok’s privacy protections as well as concerns about privacy in social media in general. TikTok, in particular, has come under scrutiny for its handling of personal data and has been the subject of several lawsuits, the biggest being a class action settlement for $92 million in 2021 for allegedly collecting data from users’ phones, including biometric data.

Privacy remains a concern as allegations surfaced that TikTok had kept a list of users who watched LGBT content. Despite assurances from TikTok that they did not collect sensitive information about users, allegations elicited concerns from workers for the company in the U.S. and elsewhere about the safety of users.

As TikTok comes under more scrutiny for its data security and the heightened hostility of regulators towards big tech companies, the recent change in TikTok’s terms of service could be a way to avoid costly court settlements. While many users accept terms and conditions without reading them, TikTok’s recent updates hold implications for consumer disputes moving forward.