The “Pay or consent” model of Facebook and Instagram is in the sights of the European Commission

Since 2023, Facebook and Instagram have offered a paid version without ads, for users in the European Union. This is the solution that the Meta group has found, in order to comply with EU rules on consent. In essence, by offering this paid offer, Meta believes that it is offering a way to use its social networks without seeing targeted ads based on personal data.

But this measure is far from unanimous. In November 2023, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), of which UFC-Que Choisir is a member, filed a complaint with the European Commission. And, as part of the application of the Digital Markets Act, Brussels opened an investigation into Meta, in order to determine whether Meta’s model, nicknamed “Pay or Consent”, is compatible with the new legislation.

This investigation, today, takes a new step: in a press release, the Commission announces the sending of its preliminary conclusions to Meta. And according to these, Facebook and Instagram users should not be forced to pay a subscription to enjoy these social networks without targeted advertising with their personal data. “In order to ensure compliance with the DMA, users who do not provide consent should nevertheless have access to an equivalent service that uses less of their personal data, in this case for advertising personalization,” we read in the Brussels press release.

Meta faces major sanctions

At the moment, these are only preliminary conclusions. “This is without prejudice to the outcome of the investigation. Meta now has the opportunity to exercise its rights of defense by examining the documents in the Commission’s investigation file and responding in writing to the Commission’s preliminary findings. explains Brussels. However, if the European Commission’s preliminary findings are confirmed, the fine could be up to 10% of global turnover.

“Our preliminary view is that Meta’s ‘Pay or Consent’ business model violates the DMA. The DMA is there to give users back the power to decide how their data is used and ensure that innovative companies can compete on a level playing field with tech giants for access to data.”explains Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market.

The European Commission relies on Article 5(2) of the Digital Markets Act, which, according to the Commission, requires platforms covered by this legislation to obtain the user’s consent to combine personal data with other services. The Commission also states that in the event of refusal of this processing of personal data, the user must still be able to benefit from an equivalent service that uses less personal data.

Meta insists

The Meta group, for its part, has already reacted. “Ad-free subscription follows the guidelines of Europe’s highest court and is DMA compliant”assures a representative, cited by the media The Verge. “We look forward to continuing the constructive dialogue with the European Commission to bring this investigation to a successful conclusion.”

  • Meta has launched an ad-free subscription for Facebook and Instagram, aiming to comply with EU rules on consent for the use of personal data
  • But in its preliminary conclusions, the European Commission considers that this model, nicknamed “Pay or consent”, does not comply with the Digital Markets Act
  • For its part, the Meta group ensures that its model complies with new European legislation

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