Meta offers to lower Facebook and Instagram subscription in Europe

Meta offers to lower Facebook and Instagram subscription in Europe


19 March 2024

Meta has offered to cut the price of its ad-free membership for Instagram and Facebook in Europe to meet regulatory concerns, according to Reuters. In a hearing with the European Commission, Meta lawyer Tim Lamb stated that the firm has "offered to drop the price from €9.99 to €5.99 for a single account and €4 for any additional accounts" in its discussions with privacy regulators in an effort to "get to a steady state."

Lamb stated that €5.99 is "by far the lowest end of the range that any reasonable person should be paying for services of this quality" and expressed optimism that the "regulatory uncertainty" would "settle down quickly." It apparently offered to lower its costs to data protection regulators early this year.

In November, the company announced an ad-free subscription following a legal challenge from European Union regulators about user data gathering and processing. Meta thought that the "Subscription for No Ads" campaign would allow it to effectively get consent to treat user data in accordance with EU GDPR and the Digital Markets Act. The subscription is valid in the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

However, consumer groups swiftly complained about the premium layer, describing it as a "pay-or-consent" smokescreen. "Meta's offer to consumers is smoke and mirrors to cover up what is, at its core, the same old hoovering up of all kinds of sensitive information about people's lives, which it then monetises through its invasive advertising model," said Ursula Pachl, deputy director general of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), in a statement in February.

Eight consumer groups from the BEUC network submitted complaints with their respective national data protection authorities, accusing Meta of noncompliance with the GDPR.The group argues that Meta's data gathering lacks a "valid legal basis" and does not provide consumers with free and informed permission.

It's unclear whether merely decreasing the monthly subscription fee will resolve these privacy concerns. NOYB, a privacy rights group, criticized the membership cost for being "way out of proportion" to the value Meta receives from tracking EU consumers. However, other groups have deeper structural concerns about the subscription's implementation. BEUC, an umbrella group of 45 consumer organizations, has requested that Meta provide additional time for consumers to consider their options and be more clear about the data acquired under the paid option.

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