Meta Platforms is facing legal challenges over its advertising-free subscription service in Europe, with the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and 18 of its members filing a joint complaint on Thursday.
According to Reuters, the complaint alleges that Meta’s fee-based offering, introduced in Europe this month, violates EU consumer laws. This action follows closely on the heels of advocacy group NOYB’s complaint to the Austrian privacy watchdog just two days prior, claiming that Meta’s new service effectively turns privacy into a paid feature.
Meta’s move to introduce a subscription model was announced in a blog post on October 30, where the company defended its decision, stating that offering users the option to purchase a subscription for an ad-free experience aligns with European regulators’ requirements. The company emphasized that this approach provides users with a choice while allowing Meta to continue serving all individuals in the EU, EEA, and Switzerland.
However, BEUC Deputy Director General Ursula Pachl pointed out several issues in the joint complaint. According to Pachl, Meta is accused of breaching EU consumer laws through the use of unfair, deceptive, and aggressive practices. This includes alleged tactics such as partially blocking consumers from using services to pressure them into making quick decisions and providing misleading and incomplete information during the process.
BEUC also expressed concerns that even if users opt for the new subscription service, their data might still be collected and used for other purposes. Additionally, the consumer group raised objections to the “very high subscription fee for ad-free services,” suggesting that such a pricing strategy could discourage users from opting for the service, potentially leading them to consent to Meta’s profiling and tracking.
“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,” stated Ursula Pachl.
This legal challenge adds to the growing scrutiny faced by Meta Platforms in various jurisdictions, highlighting the complex intersection of privacy concerns, consumer rights, and the evolving landscape of digital services. The outcome of these complaints could have far-reaching implications for how tech companies approach subscription models and user privacy in the future.