Europe European Union Featured News Technology

Meta’s Ad-Free Subscription Service Breaches EU Law, Consumer Groups Say

Consumer groups say Meta’s ad-free service, starting at €9.99 per month, is “an unfair choice for users”.

Meta’s ad-free subscription service, which rolled out in Europe this month, breaches EU consumer laws, Europe’s largest consumer group said on Thursday.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and 19 of its members hailing from 16 countries lodged a complaint with consumer protection authorities over Meta’s unfair commercial practices.

It came two days after European privacy advocacy group NOYB filed a complaint with the Austrian privacy watchdog, saying Meta’s new service amounted to paying a fee to ensure privacy.

Meta has said it launched the service, which applies to its platforms Facebook and Instagram, to comply with EU rules requiring companies to give users a choice on whether their data can be collected and used for targeted ads.

BEUC however singled out several issues, including the use of misleading information and possible breach of EU privacy laws known as GDPR.

The organisation also highlighted that users could only continue using the platforms once they decided between sharing their personal data and paying to avoid ads, a practice which didn’t leave enough room for decision.

Last month, users logging into Facebook had to decide between sharing their personal data and paying for the plaform before they could access their accounts.Euronews

“Meta is breaching EU consumer law by using unfair, deceptive and aggressive practices, including partially blocking consumers from using the services to force them to take a decision quickly, and providing misleading and incomplete information in the process,” BEUC Deputy Director General Ursula Pachl said in a statement.

BEUC said it was likely that users’ data would continue to be collected and used for other purposes even if they select the new paying service.

The ad-free service costs €9.99 per month for web users and €12.99 for app users on iOS or Android.

Meta has said these prices are in line with Netflix and the premium versions of Spotify and Google’s YouTube, but the BEUC took issue with the “very high subscription fee for ad-free services” which could deter users.

“At this price, consumers are simply going to consent to Meta’s profiling and tracking, which is exactly what the tech giant wants. People should not be asked to pay for protecting their privacy,” Pachl said.

Meta referred to a blog piece it filed a month ago when it was contacted for comment by Euronews Next.

“The option for people to purchase a subscription for no ads balances the requirements of European regulators while giving users choice and allowing Meta to continue serving all people in the EU, EEA and Switzerland,” it read.

In its ruling, the Court of Justice of the European Union expressly recognised that a subscription model, like the one we are announcing, is a valid form of consent for an ads funded service.”

Customer protection groups which participated in the joint BEUC complaint against Meta are from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Luxembourg.

Source : Euro News