The Dutch consumer association Consumentenbond is one of 19 European bodies that have submitted a complaint to the EU consumer protection authority about “unfair practices” by Facebook and Instagram owner Meta.
Meta is currently rolling out changes to its service in the EU which require Facebook and Instagram users to either consent to the processing of their data for advertising purposes or pay in order not to be shown advertisements.
But consumer groups argue that the choice Meta is offering users between a free or paid-for version is “misleading, unfair and aggressive”.
The company is acting as if there is a choice between a paid and a free version, said Consumentenbond director Sandra Molenaar. “But the consumer is already paying for the free version with their personal details. And there are clear legal rulings which state this form of data processing is also a form of payment.”
In addition, Meta is continuing to process the details of paid accounts, but does not say what this is being used for, Molenaar said.
Consumer groups united in the BEUC also argue that given Facebook and Instagram’s dominance in the EU and “the very strong network effect of social media platforms (since all your friends are on Facebook and Instagram)”, consumers do not have a real choice. If they quit, the organisation argues, they would lose all their contacts and interactions built over the years.
The very high subscription fee for “ad-free” services, at €10 or €13 a month, is also a deterrent for consumers, which means consumers do not have a real choice either, the BEUC says.
Meta says it has introduced the pricing structure to comply with “evolving European regulations”.
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