European Consumer Groups Unite Against Meta’s Ad-Free Subscription Model


A coalition of nearly 20 consumer protection organizations across Europe is raising concerns about Meta’s recent shift to offering ad-free versions of its Facebook and Instagram platforms for a monthly subscription fee, or continued access to the platforms by agreeing to be tracked and profiled for targeted advertising. The consumer groups argue that Meta’s approach is both “unfair” and “illegal,” as it violates multiple aspects of EU consumer protection law.

Key Takeaway

A coalition of consumer protection organizations is filing complaints against Meta’s ad-free subscription model in Europe, claiming it is “unfair” and “illegal.” The groups argue that Meta’s practice of forcing users to choose between paying for an ad-free experience or agreeing to be tracked and profiled breaches EU consumer protection law. They also highlight concerns about data protection and the GDPR. Consumer protection authorities are urged to take action.

Questionable Practices and Legal Breaches

The consumer groups object to both Meta’s implementation of the “pay-or-consent model” and the model itself. Meta is accused of using unfair, deceptive, and aggressive practices by partially blocking the use of its platforms until users make a choice between paying for an ad-free experience or agreeing to be tracked. The groups argue that this practice creates a sense of urgency and pushes users into making a decision they may not want to take. Additionally, Meta provides misleading and incomplete information to consumers, leading them to believe that the ad-free option involves less tracking and profiling, when in fact their personal data may still be collected and used for other purposes.

Data Protection and GDPR Concerns

The consumer groups have also raised concerns regarding the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and how Meta’s approach may infringe upon it. They argue that consumers do not have a real choice in the matter, as quitting the platforms would mean losing all contacts and interactions built over the years. The high subscription fee for the ad-free services is seen as a deterrent, further limiting consumer choice. Ursula Pachl, deputy director general of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), expressed concern over Meta’s approach and called for action from consumer protection authorities to force the tech giant to stop this practice.

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