Meta Forcing European Users to Pay for Ad-Free Access Infringes EU’s DMA

Written by Lore Apostol
Published on July 2, 2024

Giant tech company Meta decided to offer an ad-free subscription in the E.U., but this “pay or consent” advertising model violates the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the European Commission said. This approach forces users to choose between having their personal data used to deliver ads or paying for an ad-free experience that uses less user information.

The subscription that removes ads and data tracking entirely for €9.99 per month was launched in Europe in November 2023, but privacy concerns were raised as it can undermine GDPR’s basis and its protections against “data capitalism.”

The European Data Protection Board asked for an investigation into this package, and the Commission’s preliminary conclusions say Meta’s model does not meet the necessary requirements set out under Article 5(2) of the DMA.

It does not allow users to offer less of their data to the service, and this imposition is presented as a personalized ads service, and users cannot “exercise their right to freely consent to the combination of their personal data” between designated core platform services and other services. 

The regulating agency says the company can comply with the DMA by offering a less personalized but equivalent version of its social networks to users who do not consent to extensive personal data use. 

Meta’s reply to these preliminary findings is expected soon, as the Commission announced its intent to conclude this investigation by March 2025.

Non-compliance can result in fines of up to 10% of the gatekeeper's total worldwide turnover, and in case of repeated infringement, they can go up to 20%. The Commission can also oblige a gatekeeper to sell a business or parts of it or ban the gatekeeper from acquiring additional services in case of systematic non-compliance.

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