Meta cuts price of EU ad-free subscription while undergoing privacy examination.

“[W]e await feedback from the Irish Data Protection Commission [DPC], our lead data protection regulator in the EU,” he added. While Meta’s compliance with the GDPR is led by the Irish DPC, under the regulation’s one-stop-shop. This structure does not mean the Irish authority gets final say on Meta’s compliance with EU privacy rules, though. In the case of Meta, this has frequently led to objections from other data protection authorities which have landed stiffer enforcements than the DPC originally proposed. So who gets the final say on the GDPR compliance of Meta’s consent mechanism is complex too.

META PROPOSES REDUCED PRICE FOR AD-FREE SUBSCRIPTIONS IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

In a move to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) and amidst ongoing discussions with privacy regulators, Meta has proposed to lower the cost of its ad-free subscription for users in the region. Currently, this subscription is the only way for EU users to avoid tracking and profiling on the social networks Facebook and Instagram, which are owned by Meta.

Tim Lamb, the lawyer representing Meta, revealed this proposal at a workshop in Brussels today, as reported by Reuters. The proposed reduced price would be €5.99 per month for a single account, down from the current €9.99 per month, and €4 for each additional account. This offer was initially made to regulators earlier this year.

“We have wanted to accelerate that process for some time because we need to get to a steady state… so we have offered to drop the price from €9.99 to €5.99 for a single account and €4 for any additional accounts.” – Tim Lamb

A spokesperson for Meta, Matthew Pollard, confirmed the accuracy of the report, but stated that they are awaiting feedback from the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), the lead regulator for GDPR compliance in the EU.

The DPC’s deputy commissioner, Graham Doyle, declined to provide details on what specifically they are assessing in relation to Meta’s pricing or an update on their broader evaluation of Meta’s methods for obtaining user consent, which has been under review since last summer.

Despite Meta briefly offering an option for regional users to opt out of ad tracking last year, this option has since been removed. The reason for this is that the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that Meta’s claim of a “legitimate interest” for ad processing was not valid, leading them to now rely on user consent. However, critics argue that their approach of charging for ad-free access or accepting tracking is not in line with GDPR regulations, which require consent to be freely given. This makes the price point set by Meta a contested matter, as pointed out by privacy rights group noyb.

“Way out of proportion.” – noyb (referring to Meta’s pricing)

Furthermore, there have been other complaints regarding Meta’s approach, including consumer protection concerns. The situation is further complicated by the EU’s DMA and Digital Services Act (DSA), both of which apply to Meta. These regulations designate Meta as a gatekeeper for “core platform services” and require explicit consent for use of ad data. The DSA also limits the use of user data for ads and enforces GDPR compliance.

The European Commission is responsible for monitoring gatekeepers’ compliance with the DMA and very large online platforms’ (VLOPs) compliance with the DSA. They have recently requested information from Meta regarding their “pay or okay” offer under the DSA. GDPR compliance is led by the Irish DPC, but their decisions are typically reviewed by other concerned authorities for cross-border processing. This raises questions about who gets the final say on Meta’s compliance with privacy rules, especially considering that objections from other data protection authorities have resulted in stiffer enforcement measures than originally proposed by the DPC.

No Special Treatment for Reduced Pricing

In response to the news of Meta’s proposed reduction in pricing, the founder of noyb, Max Schrems, issued a statement saying, “We know from all research that even a fee of just €1.99 or less leads to a shift in consent from 3-10% that genuinely want advertising to 99.9% that still click yes.” He emphasizes that the issue is not solely about the amount of money, but the underlying “pay or okay” approach that ultimately coerces users into accepting tracking.

“We do not think the mere change of the amount makes this approach legal.” – Max Schrems

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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